By John Rutherford, Producer, NBC News, Washington
Arlington National Cemetery buried its 500th casualty of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan last Friday, one of five soldiers and a sailor laid to rest at the cemetery on a late summer morning.
At 10 a.m., a bagpiper played "Amazing Grace" for over 300 mourners at services for Navy SEAL Joshua Harris, 36, who drowned Aug. 30 in Afghanistan while crossing a river during combat operations.
"He was a brave warrior, SEAL role model, mature and reliable teammate, and an absolute great American," his commanding officer said in a statement.
Harris, the son of a doctor, grew up on a dairy farm outside of Lexington, N.C. He majored in studio art at Davidson College and studied for a master's degree in architecture at UNC Charlotte. He lived for a time in New York City and had his drawings and sculptures displayed at Lincoln Center. Harris joined the SEALs just before turning 29, the cutoff age for eligibility.
About an hour and a half after Harris' graveside service, an Army band struck up "God of our Fathers" and four Black Hawk helicopters flew over group burial services for five soldiers killed May 30, 2007, when their Ch-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down over the Upper Sangin Valley of Afghanistan.
The five were Chief Warrant Officer Joshua Rodgers, 29, of Carson City, Nev., Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Allgaier, 33, of Middleton, Wis., Staff Sgt. Charlie Bagwell, 28, of Lake Toxaway, N.C., Sgt. Jesse Blamires, 25, of West Jordan, Utah, and Sgt. Brandon Hadaway, 25, of Valley, Ala.
"Their courage and dedication will never be forgotten," their commander said earlier.
Rodgers was one of the chopper's co-pilots. He graduated from high school, married and enlisted all in the same year, 1997. He served four years in the infantry, then two years as a civilian corrections officer before re-enlisting as a warrant officer. He is survived by his widow, Casey, and his "three princesses," Madison, Autumn and Ashlyn.
Allgaier, the other co-pilot, also leaves a widow (Jennie) and three daughters (Natalie, Gina and Joanna). Jennie received flowers and an anniversary card from her husband three days after he was killed. Allgaier earned a degree in aeronautical administration from St. Louis University in 1995 and a master's degree in aeronautical science from Embry-Riddle University in 2001.
Bagwell was a crew chief aboard the chopper. He had been a high school football and basketball player back home in North Carolina and was voted his school's best athlete his senior year. He worked briefly as a carpenter and then joined the Army. He is survived by his son, Preston.
Blamires was one of six children growing up in West Jordan, Utah. He enlisted in 2003 and had recently been promoted to crew chief. He hoped one day to go to officer school and become a pilot, possibly even an astronaut. He leaves his widow, Kimberly, and daughters, Kalli and Danika.
Hadaway served as the helicopter's flight engineer. He was a jokester and "big ol' teddy bear" who went by the nicknames "Bama" and "Soupbone." He enlisted in 2002, a year after graduating from high school, and planned to get out of the Army at the end of the year. He leaves his widow, Rachel, and three sons, Hunter, Levi and Dillon.
1. Marine 1st Lt. Nicholas Madrazo, 25, of Bothell, Wash.
2. Marine Capt. Jesse Melton III, 29, of Randallstown, Md.
3. Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Eichmann Strickland, 23, of Arlington, Wash.
4. Army Spc. Marques Knight, 24, of San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
5. Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Sexton, 53, of Wentzville, Mo.
6. Navy Senior Petty Officer John Wayne Marcum, 34, of Flushing, Mich.
7. Navy Chief Petty Officer (select) Jason Freiwald, 30, of Armada, Mich.
8. Army Chief Warrant Officer Michael Slebodnik, 39, of Gibsonia, Pa.
9. Army Pvt. Michael Murdock, 22, of Chocowinity, N.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/.