BAKER CITY — St. Francis de Sales Cathedral had no room left during the Sept. 5 funeral of Army Spc. Mabry Anders.
Anders, 21, died Aug. 27 of enemy small arms fire in Kalagush, Afghanistan.
The soldier's body was carried in slow procession through town on a horse-drawn hearse to the large stone cathedral. American flags hung in many places, including from a Baker City fire truck ladder and a helicopter that hovered over the graveside service.
"We gather here to celebrate hope, hope in a future that will always have question marks, hope in the unpredictable and the unforeseen, hope in our God who created us and keeps us alive, the God who at times asks for special people to be closer to him, even though they are now farther from us," Father Julian Cassar said during his homily.
Father Cassar explained the long line of Christian martyrs who gave their lives for a greater cause — all following the example of Jesus. "Mabry imitated his master – making his ultimate sacrifice," the priest said.
Father Cassar urged those on hand to cherish their loved ones and not take them for granted.
Fellow soldiers and friends from high school attended the funeral.
“We care about each other —that’s what we do in Eastern Oregon communities," U.S. Rep. Greg Walden said in a prepared statement. "We will never forget what he did for us.”
Anders, an Army mechanic, was the son of Troy and Genevieve Woydziak of Baker City.
"Mabry always gave his all, and in the end he gave all he had," they said in a written statement. "We will miss his fearless spirit and love of life." The family has worshiped at St. Francis de Sales for years.
Anders was the third generation of his family to join the military. His grandfather was in the Army, his father in the Marines, and his mother in the Army. He was remembered as a jokester who loved dirt bikes and four-wheelers as well as riding horses.
Anders will be posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Combat Action Badge and NATO Medal, in addition to the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and other awards.
He was the 155th member of the military from Oregon and Southwest Washington to die in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Also killed in the attack was Sgt. Christopher Birdwell, 25, of Windsor, Colo. They were assigned to the 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo.