City set to honor soldier

By Sharna Johnson: Freedom Newspapers

Robert Paul Kassin memorial service: 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Highland Baptist Church, Clovis

Several groups will come together Sunday to honor a local soldier killed this week in combat in Afghanistan. The family of Sgt. Robert Paul Kassin said the support they have received continues to be overwhelming.

Kassin, 29, was killed Sunday, according to a U.S. Army news release.

He died near Larzab in Afghanistan’s Zabul province, when his platoon was attacked by small-arms fire while on patrol, the Army said.

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders group have asked Kassin’s family if they can attend the memorial to honor him. The family has welcomed their presence, said Katrina Najera, Kassin’s sister.

The group is a nationwide network of motorcycle riders who honor those killed in the line of duty while serving the nation, according to
Michael Postel said he will ride his motorcycle from Holloman Air Force Base to attend Sunday’s services.

Having attended five services since he joined the group, Postel said the New Mexico chapter has been present at about 10 memorials and funeral services in the state.

Part of the group’s notoriety stems from its protection of families from antiwar demonstrators at services, according to its Web site. Formed in 2005, the group boasts a national membership of approximately 46,000 members, Postel said.
Sunday’s envoy will be drawn from the region. About 20 riders will start, but more are likely to gather as they travel, Postel said.

They will stand sentry when the family enters the church Sunday, he said.
As an Air Force staff sergeant, Postel said attending services was something he felt he had to do and it has impacted him personally.

“The harsh reality of everything hits home. I felt like it was something I needed to do to make sure everybody gets the welcome home they deserve,” he said.

Members of the Blue Star Mothers, another national group, will also travel to the area to present Kassin’s mother, Lucia Kassin, with a gold star, Najera said.

During Friday night’s races at Ned Houk Motor Sports Complex, drivers were scheduled to drive a reverse lap in Kassin’s memory, Annette Taylor, the group’s spokesperson, said. It is a racing tradition to honor those who have died.

Robert Joseph Kassin, father of the slain soldier, has volunteered at the races for years, she said. “We couldn’t do races without him. We just want them to realize how important they are to us,” she said.

Food, flowers, donations, phone calls, cards and even childcare assistance have poured into the Kassin home in the last week, Najera said. “We were very surprised. We didn’t expect to have as much (support) as we’ve had. It’s been very wonderful to know that we’re not the only ones going through this.

Everybody has touched our hearts with everything they’ve done,” Najera said.