In a crowded chapel on Fort Richardson, more than 100 soldiers and civilians gathered Thursday afternoon to remember a fallen comrade, the first soldier killed from a unit that deployed to Afghanistan last month.
Pfc. Patrick A. DeVoe II of Auburn, N.Y., died March 8 after a roadside bomb detonated in Kandau Kalay while he was driving a vehicle on patrol, just weeks after he arrived in country.
Fellow soldiers at Thursday's ceremony described DeVoe as a man with a sense of humor, always smiling, who loved life.
"We're all brothers in arms, as they say, and we always had fun together," said Spc. Edward Murray, a friend and fellow New Yorker who spoke at the ceremony.
The 27-year-old DeVoe joined the Army in January 2008 and was assigned in July to the 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division at Fort Richardson. The brigade began deploying in February.
Back in December, DeVoe went home for three weeks of leave. His mother, Susan-Kealoha Capone, told reporters in New York it was the first time he was able to spend time with his 16-month-old daughter, Jazzibelle. Murray said DeVoe loved the girl and lit up whenever he talked about her.
DeVoe, being relatively new to the Army, would often ask about what life was like while deployed, Murray said. Although he has never been to Afghanistan, Murray did serve in Iraq, and he gave DeVoe advice when he could, he said. The last time Murray saw his friend was the day he left.
"I just told him, 'Good luck, man. Do your job,' " he said. "I saw him as he left to go get his weapon and get on the bird."
Last week, hundreds of DeVoe's friends and family members gathered at a church in Auburn for a memorial service. He was buried in a private ceremony at St. Joseph's Cemetery in Owasco, N.Y.
The ceremony Thursday, which was attended by Gov. Sarah Palin and Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, was the Army's tribute to Devoe, Army spokesman Chuck Canterbury said.
"Patrick may be gone from our ranks, but he will never be forgotten," Capt. Willard Hayes said, addressing the chapel crowd.
Chaplain Kenneth Bolin told attendees Devoe's life and death had a positive impact on all around him. The chapel was silent as Staff Sgt. Justin Stone called off roll, with several soldiers barking back their presence. Then he reached Devoe's name. No one answered.
Private First Class Patrick DeVoe!, he repeated.
Private First Class Patrick Allen DeVoe II!
A woman in the pews sobbed. Others sniffled, drawing tissues to their faces with heads lowered. Soldiers in neatly pressed fatigues stood at attention as rifle fire erupted outside the building from a detail of seven soldiers, each firing three shots in tribute to the fallen soldier.
A lonely trumpet sounded taps, then a bagpipe player standing outside began playing "Amazing Grace" as soldiers filed out, single file.
"One man never dies until the soul does," Murray said. "With a man like Pat, their souls never die."
Find James Halpin online at adn.com/contact/jhalpin or call him at 257-4589. The Associated Press contributed to this report.