Promising Journey Ends for D.C. Soldier

An Army honor guard carries Lewis's coffin to the grave site in Arlington National Cemetery. Lewis was killed in action in Afghanistan on June 23.
An Army honor guard carries Lewis's coffin to the grave site in Arlington National Cemetery. Lewis was killed in action in Afghanistan on June 23. (By Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)
By Mark Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 12, 2007

The journey of Darrell C. Lewis took him from Southeast Washington across the United States and around the world to South Korea and Afghanistan. The journey ended yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from where he was raised.

Capt. Lewis, 31, was killed June 23 in Vashir City, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked his unit with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and small-arms fire, according to the Department of Defense. He had been in Afghanistan since February.

Yesterday, more than 90 mourners braved the stifling heat to follow the horse-drawn caisson that carried Lewis's flag-draped coffin to his final resting place. He was buried near a grandfather and a great-uncle. He was the 54th service member killed in Operation Enduring Freedom to be laid to rest at Arlington.

Lewis was a member of the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, based at Fort Riley, Kan. Services for Lewis were held Tuesday at the John T. Rhines Funeral Home in the District.

"Everybody is just sad and shocked," his cousin Trina Lewis told The Washington Post in June. "This was not his destiny, to die in a desert in Afghanistan. . . . He just accomplished so much, and he had more to accomplish."

Family and friends described Lewis, who was raised in a tough neighborhood in Southeast, as a natural leader with an inquisitive mind. He was awarded a scholarship to Washington Ethical High School, where he excelled in track.

He went on to win a scholarship to Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, where he learned Japanese and Chinese. After graduating from Wittenberg, he joined the Army and was commissioned as an officer.

His military service took him across the country, from Georgia to Washington state, and included a two-year tour in South Korea.

"You can't express it in words; it was in his face," his mother, Hannah Lewis, told The Post shortly after his death. "Being in the military was the happiest I've ever seen my child."

At the funeral, folded American flags were presented to Lewis's mother; his father, Stanley Lewis; and his widow, Elizabeth, whom he wed in December in San Antonio. He is also survived by an infant son, Rashawn; a 7-year-old daughter, Taylor; and an older brother, Stanley Lewis Jr.

"He loved being in the military," Hannah Lewis said. "He was doing a lot with his life."

On her MySpace page, Elizabeth Lewis posted a tribute to her husband titled, "Darrell Your Love Shines Down." "DARRELL YOU ARE MY HERO," she wrote.

After the military service, friends and relatives remained at the grave site, where there was a poster-size picture of Lewis, for another ceremony. When it was over, three white birds were released into the sky.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company