Sharna Johnson: Freedom Newspapers
CLOVIS — Their white gloved fingers slid the length of the flag before them, creasing it along the stripes. As the fabric was snapped and pulled by the members of the Cannon Air Force Base honor guard, sniffles and sobs perforated the otherwise silent sanctuary.
In a quiet voice, a female airman solemnly thanked Sgt. Robert Paul Kassin’s father and mother for their son’s service to the nation as she handed them the tightly folded flag.
A week to the day since the Clovis soldier was slain in combat, a throng of mourners and those paying respects passed through the crossed swords of the honor guard on Sunday at the entryway into Highland Baptist Church.
Kassin, 29, was killed July 16, according to a U.S. Army news release.
He died near Larzab in southern Afghanistan when his platoon was attacked by small-arms fire while on patrol, the Army said.
He will be buried in Coushatta, La., in a family cemetery later this week, family members said.
As family and friends gathered Sunday in the church, the parking lot outside was packed with more than 50 motorcycles and clusters of veterans and well wishers.
Inside, those who knew Kassin spoke of him fondly. They described a man who lived life to the fullest and made people laugh. Shared memories of his antics brought laughter to the group from time to time.
“Robert was strong and tough,” Lucia Kassin said of her son. “He was definitely not a mamma’s boy.
“But he was mamma’s boy.”
She described a young man who brought home stray kids, always wanting to help others who needed a place to stay.
“When he went into the Army, he was spreading that out,” she said. “I know when he went out to check the perimeter it was to protect his buddies there.”
Representatives from the Gold Star Mothers presented Kassin’s mother with a gold star to hang in memory of her child lost in war, explaining the tradition stemming from World War I of mothers hanging gold stars for soldiers lost.
He lived his life “full throttle,” said Dean Turvaville, minister of Highland Baptist Church.
“He was a redneck so he would have loved that he died with his boots on — he was a soldier so he would have loved that he died with his rifle in his hands,” Turvaville said.
“There are shadows within war — war hurts bad,” he said. “Freedom is not free. Thank you for giving your son,” Turvaville said to the soldier’s parents.