The first Mississippi Army National Guardsman to be killed in Iraq was laid to rest Saturday. Specialist James Anderson Chance was 25-years-old. He is the first Mississippi Army National Guardsman to die in Combat since the Korean War. Hundreds of friends and family came to the funeral in Kokomo to say goodbye.
"Yeah, I'm proud of him. He died for our freedom, and he gave his life. Like the preacher said. His life isn't a loss, he gave it," lifelong friend Cliff Stringer said.
Many call James Chance a hero, not just for being a soldier, but for going above and beyond the call of duty. When it was time for someone to lead the convoy on a dangerous mission, James didn't want anyone else to take on the challenge. He told his commander, 'the others have a wife and children back home, I'm 25, and single, let me lead the mission. I don't want any child to go without a father.'
"That's the way his life was, that's the way he was," friend Lloyd Binkley
"He would have done it for us, for anybody," Stringer said.
It was an emotional funeral for Cliff Stringer. He's still trying to grasp what happened.
"We hung out, just late at night, just walk the roads talking, talking about life and what we were going to do when we grew up. It's incomprehensible, to lose someone you love and someone you've been around all your life just, there are no words for it," Stringer said.
James's mother and father will never open the coffin. Their son died when his fuel truck hit a land mind near the Syrian border in Iraq and was killed instantly.
James's spirit will live on. He leaves behind the bronze star, purple heart, and the Mississippi Magnolia medal. Major General James Lipscomb presented those metals and the America flag to James's mother and father. It's the first time he's lost one of his soldiers in combat.
"What I've tried to tell them is there is no way really to express the sorrow that the Mississippi national guard shares with them and the people from the entire state of Mississippi," Lipscomb said.
It's the same sentiment shared by family and friends.
"Proud of what's he's done for our country, the sacrifice he made for all of us to live in a free country. It's just bad to lose a friend, you know," Stringer said.
Chance gave his life for freedom and the loss will never be forgotten.
Chance joined the National guard after serving in the Army. Chance was involved in construction repairs at the time of his death.