Soldier's homecoming a tribute to his sacrifice

October 8, 2011 6:54:22 PM PDT
An emotional tribute was paid Saturday to Army Spc. James Butz, whose body was brought home to Indiana after he was killed in Afganistan.

Family, friends and supporters lined routes in Portage and Chesterton traveled by the hearse carrying his body. The Indiana Patriot Guard lead the hero's procession through both the soldier's hometown and into Chesteron where he will eventually be buried.

"Chesterton, Porter, Burns Harbor, we're pretty much one community and when one is fallen it affects all of us," Chesterson resident Maria Roths said.

According to military officials, the 2009 Chesterton High School graduate and medic died on Sept. 28 in the Helmand Province as he tried to help two injured soldiers. Officials said an improvised explosive device was tripped as he ran to their aide and the explosion killed Butz and the two others.

A student volunteer at the Porter Fire Department, Butz also played football and was a member of the wrestling team with his brothers John and Will and good friend David Vinson.

"He had no military background or anything but he knew what he wanted to do and that was serve his country," Vinson said. "I don't know anyone who had the commitment like he had to keep this country at peace."

His family was in the midst of planning a celebration for his return home in March.

"It wasn't meant to be," his father, John Butz, said.

His family returned Saturday night after greeting his body at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Once at the funeral home, there was a private service for family as his father seeks solace in knowing his middle son died doing what made him happy.

In their last conversation two weeks ago, Jim Butz told his father, 'Dad, I really, really love what I'm doing.' "

"He was a great kid," his father said when asked what first comes to mind when thinking of his son. "He had a wonderful personality. He was strong. He was bright. He had a gift of gab. He was a born leader."

Proud of all three of his sons and eager for them to each have a college education, John Butz said at first he wasn't entirely in favor of Jim going into the service.

But after a time, John Butz changed his mind "100 percent."

When deployed in June with 720 other soldiers, Jim Butz told his father the group was broken up into 24-man units with the mission to assist special forces.

"That was his goal. He was very happy to be a medic," he said.

When Jim Butz's body arrived at Dover early Saturday his family joined six other bereaved families.

John Butz said the families were greeted by a U.S. Army general and treated with great kindness.

"If you see a leader like that, it makes you feel a little better about the Pentagon," he said.

Butz said his family also has shown great support, as has his church.

"I think we knew the possibility existed. We knew for the past two years he could be deployed," he said.

"It's a tragedy," Butz said."But he died doing what he liked. He'll always be my hero."


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