Kilgore Remembers Fallen Soldier - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

10/15/03

Kilgore Remembers Fallen Soldier

He paid the ultimate price for his country, and today his hometown remembers him. 19-year-old Pfc. Stephen Wyatt of Kilgore was killed Monday in Iraq while traveling in a convoy that came under attack. Yesterday, Kilgore Mayor Joe Parker issued a proclamation that all non-federal flags in the city of Kilgore be lowered to half staff. After all, one of their own had died defending his country; defending his home town.

"He gave his life for the United States, for Kilgore, Texas, for everybody who lives in Kilgore, Texas," said Parker. "I felt the young man died a hero, and I felt that he should be treated as a hero."

And so they came down. It began with small flags at Kilgore's City Hall, and didn't stop until the city's largest flags were brought to half staff, including the one flown over Durham Chevrolet's Body Shop.

"He's defending our country and our freedom," said shop manager Rich Berri. "That's what it's all about. Just to show respect to his family and that we're mourning with them."

While life goes on for Stephen's former co-workers at the local Sonic, it does so with heavy hearts. It's hard for them not to think about someone they were so close to, someone they considered part of the family.

"I was kind of shocked that it actually happened," said former co-worker Justin Dykes. "I know he wanted to go into the army but I never thought something like that would happen."

"He had a good sense of humor," said former co-worker Shannon Polk. "He was really nice. If I was having a bad day, he would always come and make sure I had a smile on my face. He'd put a smile on my face."

Stephen's family remains quiet, but a family friend talked to us today about how they are doing.

"There is sorrow," said Gene Keenon. "I'm impressed with how proud his dad, who also served in the military, his stepmother, his brother and his sister, his uncle, and friends like me. We're just so proud. He's a hero as far as I'm concerned. He's just a real hero to me, and I'm glad to have known him."

Stephen's wife Kelly, who is also in the military and stationed in Hawaii, is expected to arrive in Kilgore Thursday morning. She, along with the Wyatt family will continue to work with the Army to get his body brought back to Kilgore. As a result, funeral services are still pending.

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