COLUMBIA — "A hero is not afraid to give his life."
The lyrics of U.S. Army Specialist Jason D. Fingar’s favorite song, “Hero,” echoed throughout the Salvation Army Columbia Corps and Worship Center during a service for him Monday afternoon.
More than 200 people gathered Monday to pay their respects to Fingar who died May 22 in Durai, Afghanistan, when a roadside bomb hit his military vehicle.
Captain Jason Poff officiated the service. He said Fingar “most definitely” died a hero.
“He was determined to prove to us and to everybody that you can be a man of God and still fight for your country,” Poff said.
Every person who spoke at the service said he loved life and remembered how Fingar was always smiling.
“Jason’s challenge to us is to live and respect each day as the gift that it is,” Poff said.
At the end of the service, Fingar received several posthumous awards, including the Purple Heart.
Members of the Patriot Guard Riders escorted the hearse and funeral procession to Memorial Park Cemetery. People of all ages stood on West Boulevard waving flags as the cars drove past. Residents walked out of homes and onto the street. Men removed their hats and placed their hands on their hearts. Two women held up a poster with “U.S.A.” written on it.
The Patriot Guard Riders formed a flag line leading friends and family to Fingar’s burial site.
Many people who did not know Fingar gathered around his grave alongside his friends and family. Columbia resident Ben Ross went to the cemetery with his wife and son to pay their respects to Fingar and to veterans on Memorial Day.
“We’re grateful for his service and the service of all the Armed Forces,” he said.
Seven Army soldiers fired their guns for a traditional 21-gun salute. The soldiers meticulously folded the American flag on Fingar’s coffin and presented it to his parents, David and Rhonda, while mourners listened to “Amazing Grace” being played on bagpipes.
As the memorial concluded, dozens of red, white and blue balloons were released into the air.
Hosie Roberts came to the cemetery from Boonville for the service and to visit the graves of friends who had served. He served as an Army combat medic in Vietnam. Today, he served as an “honorary member” of the Patriot Guard Riders’ flag line.
Roberts never met Fingar, but said he felt saddened by the loss of a fellow soldier. He said it is hard to attend such services.
“He had his dreams, and they’re cut short by his death,” Roberts said.