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A family buries a hero

A family buries a hero

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CRESCO - A Northeast Iowa family buried a son, a brother and an uncle today.

More than 200 attended a funeral this morning for Spc. Christopher Opat, 29, a Lime Springs native, at Notre Dame Catholic Church in Cresco. Opat died of of non-combat-related injuries June 15 while on active duty with the U.S. Army in Baqubah, Iraq. It was his third tour.

During the funeral, Rev. Richard Ament commended Opat for his military service and said he will be missed.

"Every one of us is blessed by those in military service," Ament said. These men and women, he added, "... Serve our nation and give protection to the freedoms we now enjoy."

Friends, community members, even strangers turned out to pay their respects at the church and subsequent service at Our Lady of Lourdes Cemetery in rural Elma.

On the way to the burial site, the funeral procession passed a line of 30 Featherlite Trailers employees holding pictures of American flags along U.S. Highway 63. Employees said they wanted to honor the late son of a fellow employee, a local boy and a member of the U.S. military. Opat's father, Leslie, has put in almost two decades with the company, said Rick Ruden of human resources.

The gathering is "to show respect for another American soldier," Ruden said.

Iowa's first lady Mari Culver attended the funeral. The Iowa National Guard carried out full military honors. Area veterans also attended as did several dozen Patriot Guard Riders from a tri-state region.

"We stand for those who stood for us," said Ken Halter Jr. of the Patriot Guard Riders.

The cause of Opat's death hasn't been released.


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