If only Herr's death could be our city's last

Column: City Beat
Author: Bud Kennedy; Star-Telegram Writer
Edition: FINAL PM
Section: NEWS

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

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

Fort Worth buried its first soldier killed in the gulf war yesterday. 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, bankers and lawyers and doctors helped the Herr family fill First Presbyterian Church. They sang the Marines' Hymn and buried Capt. David R. "Chip" Herr, 28, killed Feb. 3 when his UH-1 Huey helicopter crashed in Saudi Arabia.

"Lord, we give thanks for the courage of men like Chip Herr," the Rev. Robert W. 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 Memorial Park, even Bohl scrubbed his eyes over and over as a Marine color guard fired the formal 21-gun salute.

Yesterday morning, Connie Herr had answered a call from Vice President Dan Quayle. As her only son was buried, she sat bravely beside husband Dr. David Herr, a plastic surgeon, and daughter Sally, headed for a law career.

Beside them, another young woman wept a shower of tears. Every drop glistened in the sun.

Three years ago, Herr met Angie Smauley. On her 23rd birthday, she buried 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.

If he could only 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 Herr and their Marine pilot buddies, joking 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 10,000 soldiers die, we'll lose 40 more neighbors and friends we love.

This is gonna hurt.

Copyright 1991, 1994 STAR-TELEGRAM INC.
Record Number: FWST8254
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Fort Worth Country Day (FWCD) is a JK-12 private, independent, coeducational, nondenominational college-preparatory school located on approximately 100 acres in Fort Worth, Texas. The mission of Fort Worth Country Day School is to foster the intellectual, physical, emotional, and ethical development of capable students through an academically rigorous college preparatory program that integrates the arts and athletics.