Soldier's life, sacrifice honored

Friends and family come together to say farewell to Staff Sgt. William A. Allers III

Baltimore & Region

October 04, 2005|By JUSTIN FENTON | JUSTIN FENTON,SUN REPORTER

In a brief, somber funeral yesterday, family and friends gathered to remember Staff Sgt. William A. Allers III, a soldier who grew up in Fallston and was killed in Iraq last month when his Humvee was struck by a roadside bomb.

Family members wept as they watched images chronicling Allers' life flash on a screen above his flag-draped casket as "God Bless the U.S.A." played in Mountain Christian Church in Fallston.

Allers, 28, was a month away from returning from Iraq, where he was serving as a member of the Kentucky National Guard and had taken part in more than two dozen battles with insurgents, according to Guard officials. He was posthumously promoted to staff sergeant.

A family liaison said Allers' wife, who did not attend the service, is pregnant. He also had an 8-year-old son from a previous marriage.

"He was dedicated to what he put his mind to," said the Rev. Scott Schlotfelt, the only person who spoke at the ceremony. "And, on his last day on this earth, he was dedicated to serving his country."

Allers was remembered as a rambunctious child who was "always getting into something," recalled Joe Gibbons, a close friend of Allers' father, after the service. He enjoyed climbing trees, fishing and playing with the neighborhood children, Gibbons said.

Those in attendance chuckled as Schlotfelt told how Allers and two friends used to ride their Big Wheels off 4-foot jumps -- earning them the nickname "The Dukes of Hazzard" -- and how he once came inside after playing in what he thought was mud. It turned out to be compost.

Allers had always had an interest in the Army and enlisted before graduating from Fallston High School in 1995.

"He was doing what he thought was right. He gave his life for what he believed in," said Dan Wagner, 29, who grew up next door to Allers.

Allers spent eight years on active duty as a cavalry scout and settled in Kentucky after his discharge in 2003, joining the National Guard and taking a job at an office-supply business. His first marriage ended in divorce, and he remarried last year.

On Sept. 20, Allers was on a mission near Al Khalis, about 40 miles north of Baghdad, when his Humvee was struck by a roadside bomb. The driver and the gunner in the vehicle survived and were taken to Germany for treatment.

Schlotfelt told those in attendance that Allers' leadership might have saved the lives of many members of his unit.

"That day, he insisted all of them have on their gear," he said. "In the desert heat, Bill's decision might not have been popular, but he was a leader."

Maj. Gen. Donald C. Storm, adjutant general for Kentucky, who attended the service and spoke to family members in a private ceremony, said that between helping his fellow soldiers and Iraqi civilians, Allers might have helped hundreds or thousands of people while he was deployed. Allers was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

Storm called Allers an American hero, a first-rate soldier and a consummate professional. "He will be remembered as someone who had the personal courage to stand up and serve a cause bigger than oneself," Storm said.

Allers' father, William A. Allers Jr., said his family is not pro-war but supports the mission in Iraq.

"There's a time for war, and there's a time for peace," he said. "The world needs to get together to stop these people from doing what they're doing. The U.S. isn't going to do it all."

And while he said the Purple Heart is an honor for his son, he said it came with a deadly consequence.

"It's nice, but it's bad when you have to give your life for it," he said.

Allers also was honored in a memorial service in western Kentucky last week, and will be buried today at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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