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Lt. Col. Steven Hall stood by his son all of his life. As a father, that was never a problem.

But the last 11 days have taken their toll.

The Air Force colonel walked the room Monday, greeting relatives and friends at the funeral service for his son, Pfc. Jonathon David Hall.

"Thank you, thank you," he said in a hushed tone as people lined up to comfort him, though he seemed ready to comfort them.

On a long table in Woodland Park Baptist Church, framed photos of a blond-haired baby boy stood amid a hockey ballcap, a yearbook and sketches of a moose.

A left-handed, dust-covered glove, a black ink pen, a blue pocket-sized New Testament, a green book of matches, dogtags -- these things also lay on the table. They were some of what Pfc. Hall carried with him on his last combat patrol.

At the other end, a Purple Heart sat shining in its box.

Across a room that was quiet but for muffled sobs and whispers rested his body. His crisp, green uniform held rows of ribbons and medals. A teddy bear perched inside the casket looked down on the young soldier, 23 years old when he died.

On each side of him fellow soldiers stood. Pfc. Ryan Claiborne managed to stand stiffly for awhile wearing a white neck brace.

He was driving the truck and sitting just a few feet from Pfc. Hall on April 8 when a roadside bomb erupted beneath the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, flipping it over, breaking Pfc. Claiborne's back, injuring three others and causing a massive brain injury to Pfc. Hall, a combat medic.

The soldiers were on patrol in Afghanistan's Paktika province with the U.S. Army's 3rd of the 187th Infantry Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, part of the 101st Airborne Division, stationed in Fort Campbell, Ky. The unit had been deployed there less than two months.

Pfc. Claiborne couldn't talk about the mission but said his friend, Pfc. Hall, was a great medic and soldier.

"He just wanted to better himself," he said.

After the explosion, Pfc. Hall, still alive, was flown to an Army hospital in Germany where his parents met him.

"We spent 23 hours with him," Lt. Col. Hall said.

With no chance of recovery and life slipping away, the family allowed doctors to harvest the private's organs, which saved or improved the lives of six people in Europe.

Lt. Col. Hall asked to accompany his son's body home. He flew with him from Germany to the United States and on to Tennessee.

"I was just so proud to be with him and salute him along the way," Lt. Col. Hall said. "I just couldn't be more proud."

Pfc. Hall had been in the Army nearly two years and trained as a combat medic. Friends and fellow soldiers said he'd talked of making the Army a career and becoming a doctor.

The private spent most of his life in Anchorage, Alaska, but joined the Tennessee Army National Guard in Chattanooga while living with his grandparents, Don and Jan Priddy. His mother lives in Dalton, Ga., and he has extended family in Clarksville, Tenn.

Shortly after finding out about her son's injuries, Robynn Harrison called Pfc. Hall's friends, who passed the news along.

That's how Randy Guintu and Joel McKinney learned of their childhood friend's fate.

Mr. McKinney's eyes filled with tears when he remembered hearing the news. The pair spoke at the funeral, but each already had marked Pfc. Hall's passing in their own way.

"We kind of had our own memorial," Mr. Guintu said. "We went to his neighborhood, we had a pair of his shoes and threw them up on the power lines."

After the church service, police and Patriot Guard motorcycle riders escorted the family to the Chattanooga National Cemetery. Soldiers carried Pfc. Hall's casket and fired the 21-gun salute during the ceremony.

Each family member wept as the Army officer handed them a folded flag, representing Pfc. Hall's sacrifice.

Lt. Col. Hall's legs wobbled then straightened as he stood to receive his flag and return a salute.

Earlier that day, the colonel said that, since his son's death, he'd been so busy getting to him before he died, waiting with him in the hospital and escorting him home, he really hadn't had time to reflect on what had happened.

"I know when it's going to hit me, as soon as all of this is over, because then I'll actually have time to sit down and think about it," he said.

LOCAL AFGHANISTAN DEATHS

Since the 2001 start of the war in Afghanistan, 1,045 American troops have been killed in the conflict.

Local soldiers killed in the country:

* Lance Cpl. Gregory Posey, 22, of Winchester, Tenn., was killed July 30, 2009.

* Sgt. Raymundo "Ray" Morales, 34, of Dawnville, Ga., was killed July 21, 2009.

* Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Seth Sharp, 20, of Adairsville, Ga., was killed July 2, 2009.

* 1st Sgt. John Blair of Calhoun, Ga., was killed June 20, 2009.

* Sgt. Jeffery William Jordan, 21, of Cave Spring, Ga., was one of three soldiers from a Georgia National Guard unit killed June 4, 2009.

Source: Newspaper archives, icasualties.org

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: Local soldier killed in Afghanistan blast

Article: Tennessee: Volunteer State records 100th death from wars

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