A soldier’s final trip home

EXTRAS


Photo by William Woody—An Army honor guard carries the casket of Army Cpl. Aaron B. Cruttenden at Montrose Regional Airport, where his remains were flown Monday. Cruttenden was killed Nov. 7 in Afghanistan. Services will be Wednesday in Grand Junction and Hotchkiss.



MONTROSE — Army Cpl. Aaron Cruttenden’s casket arrived at Montrose Regional Airport on Monday morning under falling blankets of snow.

Two rows of veterans stood at attention in the cold, holding unwavering salutes as Cruttenden’s remains were carried to a waiting hearse by an Army honor guard.

The honor guard was from Fort Bragg, N.C., where Cruttenden was based.

Cruttenden, 25, of Norwood, died in Kunar province of Afghanistan on Nov. 7 when a vehicle he and fellow soldiers were traveling in drew small-arms fire from insurgents.

According to Scott Feathergill, Cruttenden’s stepfather, the military said Cruttenden and Spc. Dale Kridle, 33, of Hughestown, Pa., were fatally wounded as they ran from the vehicle to seek cover from the gunfire.

Cruttenden enlisted in March of 2008 and was assigned to the 161st Engineer Support Company, 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, a unit from Fort Bragg, which is among the cotton and tobacco fields of southeastern North Carolina.

About 50 people, including family members and a color guard unit made up of Vietnam, Korea and World War II veterans, watched the brief transfer ceremony at the airport. Most stood in silence; some broke down in tears.

Montrose resident and Army 82nd Airborne Division veteran Tim Wynne was one of those saluting Cruttenden’s return. After the ceremony, Wynne fired up his 1993 Harley-Davidson motorcycle as part of an escort for the casket to Taylor Funeral Home in Delta.

As their motorcycle engines warmed, and snow accumulated on their windshields, Wynne and fellow Vietnam veteran “Speedy,” another Western Slope Patriot Guard rider, were greeted by family members who thanked them for enduring winter conditions to help honor Aaron Cruttenden. One of those expressing gratitude was Cruttenden’s mother, Yvonne Feathergill.

“She told us she was very grateful for us being there and that we were going to ride. I told her it was an honor and a privilege being there,” Wynne said.

From the airport, the procession went slowly north out of Montrose through Olathe to Delta, where dozens of people stood along Main Street, draping the roadside with American flags.

“It chokes you up going through Olathe and people are running towards the road, and in Delta people coming up to the median of (Main Street). It really chokes you up to know that these people really care,” Wynne said.

“They had the intersections blocked off, and people were out there, some saluting as we rode by,” he said.

Services with military honors will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Veterans Memorial Cemetery of Western Colorado, 2830 Riverside Parkway, Grand Junction. A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Hotchkiss Community United Methodist Church.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Aaron Cruttenden Memorial Fund at any Wells Fargo Bank.


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