Screaming Eagles Through Time
Spc. William D. Dusenbery

Army Spc. William D. Dusenbery, 30, of Fairview Heights, Ill.; assigned to the 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; killed Nov. 15 when two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Mosul, Iraq.

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Fairview Heights soldier is laid to rest amid sights, sounds of military ritual

The increasingly familiar notes of taps sounded Thursday at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery for a Fairview Heights soldier killed last month when two helicopters collided over Iraq.

Buried was Spc. William David Dusenbery, 30, a helicopter mechanic with the 101st Airborne Division. He and 16 other soldiers died Nov. 15 in the collision, over Mosul in northern Iraq.

Perhaps 150 mourners stood in a 41-degree drizzle for the half-hour ritual. They heard the Rev. Anthony B. Holder of St. Michael's Episcopal Church in O'Fallon, Ill., say in the soft accent of his native Barbados, "David died serving his country. He died doing what he liked best."

More than an hour before the 11 a.m. ceremony, the first to arrive at the cemetery were nine soldiers from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. — the burial detail, led by Sgt. 1st Class Peter Wolff. Along with their dress greens and black berets, the soldiers wore white gloves.

Promptly at 11 a.m., the 17-car funeral procession arrived, following a cruiser from the Fairview Heights Police Department.

But when the hearse's rear door swung open, only two of the soldiers were needed to lift the remains. The reason: Dusenbery's body was not in a coffin but rather in a cremation vault — a cube of about 18 inches on a side.

After Holder recited the Lord's Prayer and the 23rd Psalm, medals were presented to Dusenbery's family by the senior Army representative — Maj. Gen. Robert Dail, the director of operations for the U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base.

Dusenbery was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Dail handed the medals in their cases to one of Dusenbery's daughters, Aubrey, age 9, of Arcata, Calif. She looked at them for a moment and then stared blankly ahead.

Next, Wolff and Staff Sgt. Eugene Williams folded the American flag. But first, because there was no coffin over which the flag was draped, the sergeants unfolded the flag, stretched it over the cremation vault, held it there briefly and then refolded it in the tight triangle of military tradition.

Dail gave the flag to Aubrey Dusenbery, who placed her father's medals atop the wooden flag case. Dail gave two more encased flags to other family members.

At that, bugler Norm Ladage played taps — on a real bugle, not on one of the electronic simulators so common these days at military funerals.

As taps played, standing at rigid attention and saluting was a soldier wearing the shoulder patch of Dusenbery's 101st Airborne, Sgt. Jason Ashworth of Huntsville, Texas. He stood in the crowd of civilian mourners, apart from the official funeral detail.

Ashworth served in Dusenbery's aviation battalion in Iraq. "I didn't know him very well," said Ashworth. "I was in Headquarters Company, and he was in D Company. But I'm back in the States for an Army school, and I volunteered to represent the battalion today."

Taps and the traditional 15-round rifle volley ended the ceremony, held under a canvas shelter near the cemetery's visitor center.

But only 30 yards away — in a ritual normally witnessed only by the immediate family — the two sergeants from Fort Leonard Wood joined a cemetery worker in placing the remains in the ground.

Then a red-white-and-blue cloth was pulled from the marble gravestone marker, already in place at Plot No. 250, Section N.

In all-capital letters, the headstone reads:

William David


Spc US Army

Persian Gulf


Dec 25 1972

Nov 15 2003


Beloved Husband

Father and Son

BSM means Bronze Star Medal. PH means Purple Heart.

KIA means Killed in Action.

Reporter Harry Levins


Phone: 314-340-8144

Illinois crash victim loved helicopters

November 17, 2003

An Illinois man killed Saturday when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Iraq was devoted to flying.

''It was like he lived to be around the aircraft,'' Jessica Wheat said of Army Spc. William D. Dusenbery, 30, of Fairview Heights, whom she planned to marry. ''The Black Hawk and other aircraft, it was like they were a part of that man like his left arm.''

His father, William Dusenbery, said: ''He died doing something he loved, which was flying his helicopters."

The 30-year-old Dusenbery was part of the 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.

Wheat said the only thing ''he put above his helicopters was his girls,'' referring to his 11-year-old stepdaughter and 7-year-old daughter, who live with their mother.

Dusenbery spent a good chunk of his life in the Fairview Heights area, near St. Louis, but also had lived in Chicago and out of state.