By John Rutherford, Producer, NBC News, Washington
Navy SEAL Thomas Valentine, who survived multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, only to die in a parachute accident in Arizona, was buried Thursday at Arlington National Cemetery.
Valentine, 37, was killed while participating in a predeployment, free-fall training exercise early on the morning of Feb. 13. His body was found on a golf course green 50 miles south of Phoenix.
"This is a stark reminder that what these warriors do on a daily basis is very dangerous, both on and off of the battlefield," a Navy spokesman said. I asked the Navy for any public figures on training deaths but had not received a reply by the time of this posting.
Hundreds of friends and family turned out on a bitterly cold morning for Valentine's graveside service.
"I don't know the why, I don't know the how, but I do know the who," a Navy chaplain told the mourners. "Rest in peace, Tom."
Valentine grew up in Ham Lake, Minn., and showed early signs of one day becoming a SEAL.
"I remember adventures on and around the lakes and swamps of Ham Lake," a childhood friend wrote in the online Guest Book, "sneaking along the shore of Lake Netta to a secret beach where we spent weeks clearing weeds so we could snorkel."
Some of Valentine's other youthful adventures weren't so successful.
"Tommy gave himself the Heimlich maneuver and ended up with stitches in his chin at our cabin," another friend wrote in Guest Book. "He couldn't have been more than 8 years old when he did that."
Valentine joined the Navy at age 18 and made many more friends over his nearly 20-year career.
"Tommy was simply a great guy," one of them wrote in Guest Book. "Loving, compassionate, funny, liked to drink beer and marguerites, and he could really play the drums!"
Another friend pretty much summed up the sentiments of the more than 100 people who paid tribute to Valentine in Guest Book.
"Tom was a kind and gentle soul," she wrote. "He loved his family and his country and always gave his best to both."
Valentine is survived by his widow, Christina, and their two young children, John and Meghan.
1. Army Spc. Chad Groepper, 21, of Kingsley, Iowa.
2. Army Spc. Luke Runyan, 21, of Spring Grove, Pa.
3. Army Sgt. Conrad Alvarez, 22, of Big Spring, Texas.
4. Army Cpl. Albert Bitton, 20, of Chicago.
5. Army Spc. Michael Matlock Jr., 21, of Glen Burnie, Md.
6. Army Staff Sgt. Bryant Mackey, 30, of Eureka, Kan.
7. Army Capt. Nathan Raudenbush, 26, of Earl Township, Pa.
8. Marine Lance Cpl. Drew Weaver, 20, of St. Charles, Mo.
9. Army Spc. Keisha Morgan, 25, of Washington, D.C.
Washington Producer John Rutherford is a decorated Vietnam veteran. He also posts stories on the military at www.fieldnotes.msnbc.com (click on "John Rutherford" under "categories") and at http://john-rutherford.newsvine.com/. The tribute gallery can be found at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22802019/.