Army Pfc. Jason M. Meyer, 23, and his wife, Melissa, 20, marked their first wedding anniversary long distance March 30. He was in Iraq, she was in Georgia.
A week later, he was killed by U.S. friendly fire on the outskirts of Baghdad.
Yesterday, the couple's family and friends gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the young husband, son and soldier.
"Since the Civil War . . . this cemetery has been a place to say goodbye to the nation's heroes," Army chaplain Douglas Fenton told the weeping mourners. "Jason is someone who liked to help people. That is what he was doing near the end. . . . Today we're here to say goodbye to another American hero."
Clutching tissues, Melissa Meyer was presented with her husband's Purple Heart and Bronze Star awards. The couple met through a Masonic youth group in Michigan and moved to Fort Stewart, Ga., where Jason Meyer was based with the Army's 11th Engineer Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division.
The young widow was the first of several family members to approach the casket after the service. She touched her fingers to her lips and then brushed the polished wood.
Jason Meyer's mother, Kathleen Worthington, held tight to the U.S. flag presented to her by Army Gen. Robert Griffin and sobbed uncontrollably at the sight of her son's coffin.
Worthington had worried that her family would not be able to attend the burial because they couldn't afford the trip to Washington. But last week, according to media reports in Michigan, she was presented with donations totaling more than $2,300 and an offer by U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) to pay for hotel accommodations for the family.
In an interview last week with the Associated Press, Worthington said her son's letters and calls from the Middle East were always positive. The last time she heard from him was Valentine's Day, when he telephoned from Kuwait City. He constantly sought to calm her fears, she recalled, adding: "He was always upbeat and happy. He was always a great kid."
Meyer graduated from Howell High School in 1999 and worked construction jobs before joining the Army in 2001. He drove an M113 armored personnel carrier.
A Pentagon source told The Washington Post that Meyer was killed April 8 by a U.S. tank round that blasted through a building at what is now known as Baghdad International Airport, ricocheted off a tank and struck him.
Yesterday, the young soldier was honored with the firing of a rifle salute and the sounding of taps, which brought more tears as its strains echoed across the cemetery under overcast skies.
Meyer's stepmother, Deb, knelt beside his casket and draped her arms across it in an emotional, final embrace.