WINCHESTER, Tenn. — No one would dispute that paying tribute to a deceased 50-year-old Winchester military veteran is a particularly sad event.
About 300 people attended the funeral for James Leon Wood on Friday at Winchester's Watson-North Funeral Home.
Most of those attending the service were military veterans from Franklin County and other counties in Middle and Southeast Tennessee, even a busload of Vietnam veterans from Chattanooga. Some of Wood's friends also attended his service.
Many of those who attended Friday's services were answering a call last week from Wood's mother, Bertha Allen, who lives in New Mexico and was unable to attend her son's funeral. Wood was the victim of a homicide committed some time over the last several months, and six people, including his wife and her two adult children, have now been charged in his death.
His body was found in January buried under a concrete slab in the backyard of his own home.
David Michael, who lives in Tullahoma, described Wood as "a good friend and fishing buddy," just before the funeral service got underway.
Michael said he feels sad at the loss of his friend, but "we are celebrating his life, he was a gentle soul."
Those veterans at Wood's funeral acknowledged they did not know him, but still considered him family because of the bond shared among those who serve their country in times of war and peace.
The service began with the playing of "God Bless America" and the National Anthem, followed by a military honor guard firing a three-volley salute.
First Sgt. James Paschal with the Tennessee Army National Guard, then held the United States flag with Staff Sgt. Andrew Eichorn, a member of the Nashville Middle Region Funeral Honors team, folding it.
Retired Army Sgt. Major Larry Williams, Disabled American Veterans, Department of Tennessee, 5th District commander, a Marion County resident, then opened the service by reading Wood's obituary after the playing of taps.
"I did not know Specialist Wood personally, however, I would very much like to thank him for his dedicated and honorable military service, to our country," Williams said. "At a later date, we will meet in that special place, which God reserves for all of those who have stepped forward to serve their country, in a military uniform."
Williams also paid tribute to those who came to attend Wood's funeral service.
"I would once again like to thank those military veterans who have traveled great distances to be here to honor a fellow military veteran," he said.
Franklin County Veterans Service Officer Bobby Clark also paid tribute to Wood for his military service with the reading a poem titled "Old Soldiers Never Die."
Student Pastor Josh Jackson of Winchester First United Pentecostal Church gave the sermon, followed by prayers delivered by Franklin County Sheriff Tim Fuller.
Doris Colvin-North sang, "Address Change" per the request of Wood's mother.
The service concluded with the playing of Amazing Grace on bagpipes.
Winchester Police Chief Richard Lewis, Asst. Chief Kelly Gass, Capt. Jeff Miller, Detective Robert Morris, Detective Ryan Fuller and Detective Jamie Cox served as pallbearers for Wood's funeral, leading the procession as they carried his casket to be transported to and placed at the grave site.
At Wood's gravesite, with the veterans and Wood's friends standing nearby, Sheriff Fuller provided the committal, the concluding statement for the funeral service.
According to his obituary, Woods was a native of Delano, Calif., and a veteran of the U.S. Army who joined the military "[d]ue to the love he had for his country," enlisting in the National Guard out of Bakersfield, Calif., when he was 40. He served two tours of duty with Bravo Troop, 1-172nd Calvary Squadron and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal in 2010.
Wood was "a home builder by trade, but cherished his military career," his obituary states. "Those who knew him will remember him for the love he had for his country, his family, his friends and for his "big" fishing stories."
Friends said he was "an easy going, fun-loving gentle soul who enjoyed playing the bass guitar but could out-fish anyone," according to his obituary.