COLUMBIA — Everyone in the parking lot stood in silence as Paul Hobbs, a commander in the American Legion Riders, standing next to an American flag, played taps on a bugle.
The bugle's lonely tune marked the second anniversary of U.S. Army Spc. Sterling Wyatt's death. Wyatt was killed in action in Afghanistan on July 11, 2012.
Dozens of friends, family and residents gathered outside the park named in his honor for an informal park dedication ceremony Friday. The city of Columbia renamed Old 63 Roadside Park to Sterling W. Wyatt Park in November 2013.
Near the end of the ceremony, Sherry Wyatt, Wyatt's mother, stood in front of the crowd in the park's parking lot and said: "We have officially dedicated this park to my baby. We are proud of our boy and what he did."
Wyatt grew up a few blocks from the park. Sherry Wyatt said he was well known in the neighborhood because of his time working at the Bee Line gas station near the park.
Sgt. Steve Lyden was one of four of Wyatt's comrades who attended Friday night's ceremony. Lyden was in the truck behind Wyatt when a blast from an improvised explosive device took his life. In an interview, Lyden spoke of Wyatt's familial nature.
"He was just always positive," Lyden said. "He was the always the guy from the group that reminded us what we were doing here in Afghanistan when we were missing home."
Lyden paused a moment and then said: "He lived for the Army; he lived there for us. Everything was about family."
Columbia residents who knew Wyatt came to pay their respects, as well, including Jennifer Wheele, a good friend of Wyatt's at Rock Bridge High School.
"This event shows how many people can get together and care about a family," she said. This dedication is "important to me because it was a hard time losing him. It's great to know how many care and are out there that care for the families that have sons that don't come back."
According to previous Missourian reporting, former Shepard Boulevard Neighborhood Association Chairman Rod Robison proposed the park change its name to honor Wyatt in September 2013. That October, the City Council approved of the park's renaming with a unanimous vote, and the name was officially changed on Nov. 4.
Mayor Bob McDavid attended the dedication. He's a Wyatt family friend and delivered Wyatt and his younger brother, Chandler, when he was an obstetrician. He's been very supportive to the Wyatt family in the past two years, Sherry Wyatt said.
"Sterling's memory will always be here," McDavid said in a speech.
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