By John Rutherford, Producer, NBC News, Washington
The Army's Old Guard buried one of its own this week. Staff Sgt. Christopher Hake, 26, of Enid, Okla., began his military career eight years ago with the elite ceremonial regiment, burying the dead and guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
He went on to serve in Iraq with the Third Infantry Division and met and married Kelli Short along the way. She gave birth 18 months ago to their son, Gage, and soon afterward Hake faced another deployment to Iraq.
"It really tore his heart out to walk out on that boy," Hake's father told the Tulsa World. "It made him wish he could be done with the war."
But as much as he loved his family, he felt a sense of duty to his country, and he left in October for the war.
"He was a squad leader, and he loved his guys that worked under him," his dad told the Associated Press. "He said they would die for each other, and they did."
On Easter Sunday, a roadside bomb in southern Baghdad claimed the lives of Hake and three of his squad members, pushing the U.S. death toll in Iraq to 4,000.
"Good-bye my son, my baby boy, my U.S. soldier, my pride and joy," Hake's mother wrote in the online Guest Book.
Hake was the 416th casualty of the war to be buried at Arlington. His son Gage squirmed and cried on several laps as a minister told mourners Tuesday that Hake was among those soldiers who "sacrificed their lives for freedom."
"You now join the ranks of this honored group," the minister said of Gage's father.
Allowed to join his mother, the boy sat quietly on her lap while the Old Guard folded the flag over his father's casket, the firing party fired three volleys, and a bugler played "Taps."
1. Army Spc. Charles Jankowski, 24, of Panama City, Fla.
2. Army Sgt. Jevon Jordan, 32, of Norfolk, Va.
3. Army Sgt. Terrell Gilmore, 38, of Baton Rouge, La.
4. Marine Maj. William Hall, 38, of Seattle, Wash.
5. Army Sgt. Dayne Dhanoolal, 26, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
6. Air Force Airman Travis Griffin, 27, of Springboro, Ohio.
7. Army Sgt. Nicholas Robertson, 27, of Holden, Maine.
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/.