When war's other face comes home in a coffin

Column: City Beat
When war's other face comes home in a coffin
Author: Bud Kennedy; Star-Telegram Writer
Edition: FINAL AM

Article Text:
FORT WORTH - It's awfully easy to cheer for Operation Desert Storm when we only see TV pictures of a swarthy dictator, and our bombs blasting his country to tiny bits.

It's much tougher when Chip Herr comes home in a coffin, carried by six Marines. With an American flag over his baby face.

Fort Worth buried its first soldier from the gulf war yesterday, and it dug deep into the city's heart. Boys who play kick-the-can in Tanglewood and baseball for Country Day School aren't supposed to die in wars. They become bankers or lawyers or doctors.

Yesterday, Fort Worth bankers and doctors helped fill First Presbyterian Church. They sang The Marines' Hymn and buried Marine Capt. David R. "Chip" Herr, 28, killed Feb. 3 when his UH-1 Huey helicopter crashed in Saudi Arabia.

"We give thanks for the courage of men like Chip Herr," the Rev. Robert Bohl prayed in his booming voice.

"Now - give us the courage to give him back to you." . . .

Proud goodbyes At the graveside service at Greenwood cemetery, even Bohl scrubbed a fist into his eyes over and over as a Marine color guard fired the traditional salute.

Yesterday morning, Vice President Dan Quayle phoned Connie Herr. As her only son was buried, she sat bravely beside husband Dr. David Herr, a plastic surgeon, and daughter Sally, a student in law school.

With them, a young woman wept a shower of tears, each drop glistening in the sun. Three years ago, Herr met Angie Smauley. On her 23rd birthday, she helped to bury him.

One of the first to hug them was Marine Capt. Mike McNeil, Herr's roommate at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

"Look at this family," he said later. "They're proud. They're incredibly patriotic. They're loyal.

"Chip was loyal to a fault. He wanted to be a copter pilot. He wanted to be a Marine."

A great 28 years Insurance agent Don Woodard Jr. once played kick-the-can alongside Herr. He said a teacher was wrong last week, calling Herr's death "a waste."

"It's a happy story," he said. "This guy had a marvelous education. He loved to fly helicopters. He loved to be a Marine. He dated a marvelous young woman.

"He loved what he did. He loved his family. He loved his country. He had everything he ever wanted.

"He led a fabulous life. Not a waste." . . .

The beginning Herr was the first Tarrant County soldier killed in the gulf war. We pray he might be the last.

More likely, in combat, we'll bury another every week or two. TV cameras won't come anymore. The news stories will shrink to the obituary page.

McNeil remembered how Marine pilots joke about dying.

"We always work on our last lines," he said. "If you go down in a crash, you're supposed to grab the radio for one last call.

"Chip always said his would be, "This is gonna hurt!' "

If 10,00 0 soldiers die, we'll lose about 40 more neighbors and friends we love like Chip Herr.

This is gonna hurt.

Copyright 1991, 1994 STAR-TELEGRAM INC.
Record Number: FWST8253
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