Family, friends bury soldier killed in Iraq

Baltimore & Region


At the funeral yesterday for Cpl. Bernard L. Ceo, hundreds of family members, friends and fellow soldiers remembered the 23-year-old National Guard soldier with prayers, hymns - and some words from people whose lives he touched.

After Ceo was killed this month with two other members of the Maryland Army National Guard in a Humvee crash in the Al Taji area of Iraq, one officer wrote Ceo's mother to tell her how he could tell how special her son was after sharing only one supper with him in Kuwait.

"I remember asking him, `Son, is there a letter missing from your name tag? Should it be Cleo with an `l' or maybe Ceon?'" the officer wrote. "He said, `No, it's just Ceo.' And I said, `Like chief executive officer?' And your son just laughed out loud and had a big smile on his face. I was impressed with his courtesy and his manners."

Many such sentiments, recalling the Baltimore native's sense of duty, selflessness and integrity, filled the somber service at St. Bernardine's Roman Catholic Church in West Baltimore.

To comfort the family, the Rev. Edward Miller drew from the Biblical verse: "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit."

"He was that proverbial grain of wheat," Miller said. "Did he not give of himself so that others could be lifted up?"

Ceo had hoped for a career of helping others, his family said. After the military, he wanted to carry over his love of working with children into becoming a teacher.

At Kennedy Krieger High School Career and Technology Center, he tutored special-needs students one on one. He tried to reach troubled youth at the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School. He took a part-time job as a gym teacher at Harford Heights in Baltimore.

"He was giving of himself [at the Hickey School]," Miller said. "As a role model, a teacher, a guide, helping to raise young boys and girls up."

The priest spoke of Ceo's many plans and dreams. One was recording music - he achieved that while overseas in Iraq. Another was marrying his longtime girlfriend Dajae Overton in an elaborate ceremony once he returned from the war.

After "he felt a call in his heart after 9/11 to give himself to his country," Ceo enlisted in 2001, Miller said. He was a technician serving in the honor guard with the 5th Regiment Infantry.

Many of Ceo's nieces, nephews and cousins attended the funeral in black T-shirts, with the shadow of Ceo's dogtags printed on the front. On the back, a photo of him in uniform and the words, "Forever the heart of a soldier."

Ceo and the two soldiers killed with him were the first Maryland National Guardsmen to die while deployed overseas since World War II, according to the military. Ceo was promoted posthumously from specialist to corporal. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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