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Fallen Marine laid to rest
Master Sgt. Jerome David Hatfield, 1972-2009
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Members of local veterans’ organizations and the Martinsville-Henry County Veterans Honor Guard line the road at Norris Funeral Services and salute the body of Master Sgt. Jerome David Hatfield as it is taken by hearse from the funeral home to a family cemetery in Patrick County. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
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Sunday, July 19, 2009

By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer

Master Sgt. Jerome David Hatfield was remembered Saturday as a man who was loyal to his family and his country.

"David lived and breathed the Marines; he lived and breathed his family. He lived life to the fullest," said the Rev. Noel Naff, who presided at Hatfield's funeral at Norris Funeral Home chapel.

Hatfield, 36, of Axton, died July 11 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. He was part of the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

About 30 Marines from his unit were among the estimated 250 people attending the funeral. Six Marines served as pallbearers for the funeral and six others were pallbearers at the burial in the Brim family cemetery in Patrick County.

Staff Sgt. Drasos Coca was among the Marines attending the funeral. Hatfield was his boss.

"He was laid-back" but knew how to get things done, Coca said after the funeral. "He always had a smile on his face."�

Sgt. Jeff Hunt also worked for Hatfield and called him "a great leader."�

"He was easy to get along with. ... You couldn't ask for a better guy," Hunt added.

But dealing with his death was "rough," Coca said, "especially since we're back here and he was deployed."�

Naff said during the 35-minute service that Hatfield "put forth his best and expected others" to do the same. He noted his courage and his willingness to serve his country and provide for his family.

"He wore many hats - husband, father, comrade, friend," Naff said.

Those roles were reflected in a slide presentation shown before the funeral. They showed Hatfield with his wife, Angela Dawn Jefferson Hatfield, at their wedding, with their children and in the military.

"Life has its ups and downs" and many obstacles, Naff said from a podium above the flag-draped coffin surrounded by floral arrangements in red, white and blue. "Some say it is a battlefield. ... The prize possession is our hearts."�

"I believe David knew what battling was all about," he continued. "He made the ultimate sacrifice."� Naff said the memories of Hatfield's strength and honor would help comfort his family and friends as they cope with his death.

At the start of the funeral, members of the Martinsville-Henry County Veterans Honor Guard and other veterans walked to the front of the chapel and each slowly saluted Hatfield's casket. After the ceremony, they lined the funeral home driveway and saluted as his casket and the processional passed by.

About 50 members of the Patriot Guard Riders were in the processional in flag-bearing motorcycles and other vehicles that escorted the family to the cemetery, according to the riders' state captain, Jim Borling of Roanoke. There, they were to stand in silent watch.

Members from Virginia and North Carolina, and one good friend of Hatfield's from New York, were there, Borling said. He added that the riders attend military funerals at the family's request.

"It's important to the family that they know with their loss is a nation that grieves and a community that grieves," Borling said, adding that Saturday's riders represented thousands of people from across the country.

Four members of Amvets Collinsville Post 35, its Ladies Auxiliary and Sons of Amvets also were among those present.

They were there "out of respect for the serviceman. That's what Amvets is all about," said Frances Harding of Martinsville, whose husband, Charles "Chip" Harding, a Vietnam War veteran, died in June 2008.

"It's hard" to attend a military funeral so soon after her husband's death, she said. "But we have to show respect to the men who give their lives for their country."�


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