Monday, June 8th was the day Pvt. William Long was to ship out for his first duty station in Korea. Instead his journey ended at Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery, there buried with full military honors. He was 23 years old. He was a son and brother. He was a soldier.
Last week, Pvt. Long was killed in the line of duty, in service to his country. Outside the recruiting station where he was serving temporary duty in the Hometown Recruiter's Assistance Program, Long and Pvt. Quinton I. Ezeagwula were attacked in a craven act of terrorism. Long is the first military member killed by Islamic terror on our shores since September 11th.
Pvt. Long's funeral was held at Harlan Park Baptist Church in Conway, Arkansas. The service was private, attended by 200 or so family, friends, and fellow military members and veterans. Outside the church the Patriot Guard Riders lined the streets with motorcyles and flags, acting as a barrier between the service and would-be protesters. Gov. Mike Beebe and Rep. Vic Snyder were in attendance. Flags across the state were at half-mast.
Pvt. Long's brother, Pfc. Triston Long, placed his unit's insignia in the casket. "My brother taught me valuable lessons and made me the man I am today," he said. "My commander said, 'Make your brother one of us.' I will miss my brother with all that I am, and I serve in honor of him."
The family's military tradition and dedication to service were praised by Long's pastor, John Harrington. "No one is more military, no one is more patriotic than this family right here," he said. "Military runs through their hearts and their blood."
Daris Long, father and former Marine, stood behind his son's casket wearing a red Marine Corps baseball cap and military medals on his chest and read aloud the letter he had planned to give his son on the day of his deployment. He spoke of duty, readiness, committment. "Your day only ends when you’ve done your duty," he read with emotion. "You and your brother ... are both heroes for having the moral courage to stand up when your country needs you most. You are in my hopes and my thoughts and my prayers. You are my son, you are my hero. I love you. Semper fidelis."
Pvt. William Long did his duty. His day ends with honor. And we honor him.