Tarrant's first war fatality eulogized as `gentle giant'
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Author: Victor Inzunza; Star-Telegram Writer
Edition: FINAL AM
FORT WORTH - Against the backdrop of a nation at war, Connie and David Herr sat quietly by the flag-draped coffin at First Presbyterian Church yesterday and made their peace with the death of their only son.
"I am told that when a United States Marine is at his best, he has reached the point where his fellow Marines regard him as a gentle giant," the Rev. Robert Bohl said as he eulogized Marine Capt. David "Chip" Herr. "Such was the case with Captain Herr. He was a gentle giant.
"That is why we come to this place. To worship to God and to remember the way David Herr lived his life," he told the more than 1,000 people who filled the church. "He had a profound sense within him of what was right and wrong, and he spent his life doing what was right."
Herr, 28, a Fort Worth native, died more than a week ago when his UH-1 Huey helicopter crashed in eastern Saudi Arabia. The crash killed all four crew members, including another North Texan, Cpl. Albert G. Haddad Jr., 22, of Lewisville.
Herr is the first from Tarrant County to die in the Persian Gulf war.
And in his death, many who attended the funeral found hope.
"It was sad, but it really was a celebration," said Susie Rush, who worked with Herr when he was an orderly at St. Joseph Hospital.
"It was very moving. It makes it so much easier to take because his life was right with God, and he was doing what he believed in. I think the preacher said it best when he said it was a life lost but not wasted."
The funeral was accorded full military honors. Members of the 2nd Marine Battalion from Fort Worth provided the color guard and 21-gun salute. The choir sang The Marines' Hymn in Herr's honor. Marines from the 2nd Battalion and from Camp Pendleton, were the helicopter pilot was based, were in attendance.
"He was loyal to a fault," said Marine Capt. Mike McNeil, who was in Herr's helicopter group at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, Calif. "He cared about what he was doing - he wanted to be a Marine and a pilot."
After the funeral, Marines carried the flag-draped casket out of the church with the Herr family close behind. At the graveside service at Greenwood Memorial Park, Connie and David Herr sat with their daughter, Sally, and Chip Herr's girlfriend, Angie Smalley of Oceanside.
With the setting sun casting long shadows on the proceedings, two Marines folded the flag and presented it to Connie Herr. The Marines then fired off a volley of shots in the traditional salute.
After the service, friends struggled with the loss of Herr, a 1980 graduate of Fort Worth Country Day School and a 1984 graduate of Washington and Lee University.
"There's been such minimal casualties, and he had to be one of them," said Eric Hyden, a pallbearer and Herr's high school friend. "That is what I am having such a hard time with. It's just tearing me to pieces."
Hyden and other high school classmates remembered Herr as an athletic but subdued young man who seemed to be the least likely person to have chosen a career in the military.
"He was really very mild-mannered," said classmate Jerry Lamensdorf. "You just never would have thought he would join the Marines. I am guessing he was doing it to prove something to himself.
"He chose something that would challenge him, something that was physical and technical. He was just that way."
And Bohl, in offering a prayer for the other men and women serving in the Persian Gulf region, said Herr's life should not be viewed tragically.
"So we say we are proud of Captain David Rorher Herr Jr.," the minister said. "For the sacrifice he made for us - may it never be forgotten.
"We say to you forever we love you and thank God for you, and we trust you to God's eternal care."
Copyright 1991, 1994 STAR-TELEGRAM INC.
Record Number: FWST8277