Hundreds attend funeral for fallen soldier
June 10, 2007
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua Robert Rodgers was remembered Sunday as a dedicated soldier who was devoted to his wife and three daughters whether at home or in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rodgers, 29, died May 30 with four other crew members when his CH47 Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.
More than 600 people attend the soldier’s funeral, which was held on the softball field at Douglas High School where Rodgers graduated almost 10 years ago to the day.
“As much as I don’t want to believe God could take this perfect life from me, I need you to believe in God so I can be at peace,” said his wife, Casey Gilder Rodgers.
“I need to know my husband is with God or I can’t get through this,” she said.
Rodgers three daughters, Madison, 7, Autumn, 3, and Ashlyn, 2, attended the service along with his parents, step-parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins.
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Madison wrapped herself in her father’s Army jacket. The two youngest girls wandered among mourners, occasionally being scooped into a lap or receiving a hug.
The colors orange and yellow were intermixed with red, white and blue flowers and flags. The yellow commemorated support for the military and the orange represented the color of Rodgers’ KTM Dirt Bike, which was displayed in front of the temporary dais at home plate.
Rodgers’ Army boots were dangling from a wire above the backstop which served as the stage for the 90-minute service.
Rodgers was a member of the 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 82nd Brigade Combat Team in Fort Bragg, N.C.
Family friend and veteran Tim Van Meter said how proud he was that so many people attended the service.
“I am so proud that America has come forth to support our fallen soldiers,” he said.
“I don’t just cry for Josh, but for the men and women who have given their lives for 200 years. I’ll never forget you put that wave back in that flag I am so damn proud of,” Van Meter said.
Linda Moshier said her nephew Joshua was born three weeks early and lived his life that way.
“He was the kind of person any time anyone needed help, he was the first one there,” she said. “He was a wonderful, wonderful human being.”
She said Rodgers returned from boot camp determined to marry his high school sweetheart, Casey, “that little-red-headed firecracker.”
“He didn’t want anyone else to have her,” Moshier said. “They have three beautiful daughters, just like him.”
Former classmate Brian Beck said he met Rodgers in high school.
“I met Josh here at school working on a car. All I have right now is this wrench which he dropped on me. He was the best friend anybody could ask for. He was very dependable and very honest. He cared about his family more than anyone I know,” Beck said.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cesar Lariano, a member of Rodgers’ unit from Fort Bragg, N.C., said he met Rodgers in late 2004.
“I thought he was so loud and obnoxious, I couldn’t believe we got him,” Lariano said. “I didn’t realize he was laying out the seed for being the comedian, keeping everybody laughing and happy.”
He talked about how Rodgers’ youngest daughter Ashlyn was born on the day the unit was deployed to Iraq.
“Josh thought it was the right thing to do to go,” Lariano said. “He didn’t ask anybody to stay back.”
Lariano said when the troops arrived in Iraq, officers couldn’t believe Rodgers was there and offered him a chance to go home.
“He said he couldn’t put Casey and the girls through that again,” Lariano said.
“I love my wife and kids, but Josh gave me competition. I thought I was the only one who put a shrine in my room when we deployed,” Lariano said.
Lariano said he will never salute the flag without thinking of the crew that perished on May 30.
Rodgers’ cousin, Private E-2 Matthew McElfish, was allowed to delay deployment to Camp Casey in Korea until after the service.
“He’s a great person,” McElfish said of his cousin.
“I’ll never forget him. Josh is our hero,” he said, struggling to hold back tears.
Rodgers’ family was presented with a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Combat Action Badge and Gold Star.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Turner talked about how hard Rodgers worked to be a dedicated solder and father.
“I never met a man who loved his wife and children the way he did,” Turner said. “He was a loving father and husband and true hero. He will always be an inspiration to me.”
Following the service, three Nevada National Guard CH47 Chinook helicopters flew the missing man formation over the field, hovering above a sea of American flags held high by mourners.
One of the helicopters landed on the adjacent junior varsity field.
Rodgers’ body was taken to Eastside Memorial Park for burial. Dozens of motorcyclists, many members of the Patriot Guard and Blue Knights, formed an honor guard to the cemetery along with members of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, the Nevada Highway Patrol and the Nevada National Guard.
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