After 27 years and countless adventures, Army Sgt. Stephen Sherman returned yesterday to the place of his birth, Arlington, and was laid to rest.
About 150 people huddled under umbrellas and watched as an honor guard folded a U.S. flag above Sherman's coffin at Arlington National Cemetery.
Bernadette Sherman touches the coffin of her son Stephen, the 116th soldier killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
(Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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They listened as his father told of his eldest child and the memories that he said would help push away the sorrow.
Sherman, of Neptune, N.J., was killed Feb. 3 in Mosul, Iraq, when a homemade bomb detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Lewis, Wash.
Sherman was the 116th soldier killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried at Arlington.
A cold drizzle fell and a flock of geese honked overhead as Richard Sherman spoke. He told of the rocks his son scaled in Arizona, the rivers he rafted in Colorado and the glacier he sky-dived above in New Zealand.
"He was a hero to his family and friends long before he met his tragic end in a foreign land," Sherman said.
Stephen Sherman, the eldest of six siblings, lived his first 11 years in Fairfax County. When his parents divorced, he moved with his mother, Bernadette, to New Jersey, where he graduated from high school.
He soon launched a nomadic life in search of excitement. It included an Outward Bound trip to Colorado, college in Oregon, a semester abroad in Australia and a stint managing a rental car operation in the Cayman Islands.
"He just liked to go far away," Richard Sherman, who lives in Great Falls, said in an interview. "Oregon wasn't far enough, so he went to Australia."
But Stephen Sherman was not seeking thrills when he joined the Army in 2003 at age 25.
He wanted job skills, and he thought he could do some good, his father said. He talked of opening a restaurant with his brothers or doing emergency relief work after completing his four-year commitment to the military.
"He had a lot of dreams," Richard Sherman said.
The Army brought Sherman adventure nonetheless. He was deployed to Iraq in October, and two months later he escaped harm when insurgents attacked a mess hall in Mosul, where his unit was stationed.