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ELKHART -- For Sydney Calhoun, it's been the longest week-and-a-half of his life.
"It seems like time has stopped at that moment," he said Saturday, alluding to the instant he learned of the death of his brother -- U.S. Army Sgt. Marvin Calhoun Jr. -- in Afghanistan.
He and the rest of the family have somehow carried on, though, and they remembered the fallen soldier Saturday at a funeral service and burial ceremony. Marvin Calhoun, who grew up in Elkhart, died along with eight other U.S. servicemen when the Blackhawk helicopter carrying the group crashed on Sept. 21 in Qalat, Afghanistan.
"He brought out the best in us. When we were together, we were happy," remembered Sydney, flanked by six siblings and addressing mourners at the funeral ceremony at the Elkhart Central High School auditorium. "I just want everyone here to know (that) Marvin, he will never die. He will always be with us. He will always be here."
Before the ceremony even started, outside in the Central High School parking lot, friends noted the tight bonds in the large, extended Calhoun family and their collective faith.
"They're a loving family, very close, a family of God," said Teffany Ulmer-Allen of Elkhart, one of perhaps 600 mourners on hand to pay respects. "They are holding out well. When we're put in a situation like this, God takes care of everything. We just pray about it and move on."
Around 150 leather-clad motorcycle enthusiasts belonging to the Indiana Patriot Guard were also on hand, silently holding fluttering U.S. flags at the Central High School entrance.
"It's just respect for our fallen brothers, a fallen hero," said Jay Hilliard of Churubusco, ride captain for the Patriot Guard contingent.
Back inside, ushers in the aisles of the Central High School auditorium clutched boxes of tissues, ready to pass them out to dry mourners' wet eyes. Some sniffled, but more often, the audience rose in applause in remembrance of Calhoun.
"It's not how long a man lives, but it's how well a man lives," said Dannell Brown, pastor at Agape Missionary Baptist Church.
Calhoun, just 23, leaves behind a widow, Yamili Calhoun-Sanchez, and a young daughter, among many other relatives.
'IN THE FIGHT'
Calhoun, who had attended Central High School, entered the Army in June 2006 and was on his second deployment in Afghanistan when the Sept. 21 crash occurred. The incident is under investigation, though military authorities have said there was no enemy fire at the time.
Army Major Gen. John Bartley, citing the account of Calhoun's company commander, noted the man's zest for service.
Calhoun "wanted to be in the fight," Bartley said. He would regularly volunteer for missions "because he wanted to be where the action was. ... He wanted nothing more than to fly."
Calhoun's division, based at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, had been assigned with helping with counterinsurgency operations there, according to a military fact sheet. Calhoun himself was a construction equipment repairman serving as a door gunner.
Military wasn't everything, though.
Pastor Dave Klahr, who ministered to the young man earlier in his life, called Calhoun a born-again Christian, "a man of faith."
Bartley, again citing Calhoun's company commander, said the man's daughter, Yohani Marie Calhoun-Sanchez, was also a central topic. During a lull in one air mission, he couldn't stop talking about the girl.
"He loved his little girl and it showed," Bartley said.
Going forward, it won't be easy. Calhoun's widow sobbed as Bartley presented her with the folded U.S. flag that had shrouded her husband's coffin at the burial ceremony at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens in Osceola.
"Anything we can do, call us," said the Rev. Christopher Pittman of The Church in Elkhart. "We'll do what we can to help."
Afterward, a group of Calhoun's neighborhood friends said the ceremony was one of the saddest they'd been to.
One of the young men, Gary Mayberry, remembered with a laugh that they had nicknamed Calhoun "Hey You" because he was the youngest of the group, the rookie. Now, though, there was nothing but admiration.
"Thanks for doing what (you) did for us, serving our country," said Courtney Applewhite, another friend.
"We love you 'Hey You,'" Mayberry said.