Pfc. Christopher Mabry, a 19-year-old Marine killed April 7 in Iraq, was buried Thursday in Lauderdale County.
More than 300 people filled First Baptist Church to pay their respects to the fallen soldier who was among 13 Marines killed while battling Sunni insurgents west of Baghdad.
Mabry was deployed to Iraq in February, months after becoming a Marine. He signed up to enlist last year during his senior year in high school at Clarkdale Attendance Center.
Mabry's high school track and football coach, Bubba Hathorn, said the Marine would always strive to be the best. When he placed second in the 400-meter sprint at a high school track meet in Carthage in 2002, his teammates and coach congratulated him. They were proud. Mabry was not.
"I want to be the best,'' Hathorn recalled Mabry saying after the sprint.
Mabry was an honors student at Clarkdale where also played football. In 2002, as a senior defensive back, Mabry led the football team to a district championship and the Bulldogs' first appearance in the state playoffs. Hathorn said he was the player everyone looked up to.
"He was the leader of the team,'' said Spencer Robinson, a football player on Mabry's team two years ago.
"Everyone followed him. He was the hardest worker in the weight room and the most energetic athlete.''
Cars lined downtown streets for the funeral, and an American flag hung from the raised ladder of a fire truck. Mabry was buried at Rock Hill Church Cemetery in the Meehan community.
Clarkdale Attendance Center excused students from class to attend the service, and the seniors on the Bulldogs football team acted as honorary pallbearers.
"I'm not surprised with the turnout,'' said Mabry's grandmother Frances Mabry, who raised him since age 4.
"I know he's proud of all these people being here. There were a lot of military representatives here, too. I know Chris is happy about that.''
Frances Mabry said she got her last letter from her grandson the day before the funeral. He was scared to go to Iraq, scared that he would die, Frances said.
"But I don't think his memory will fade,'' she said. "I think it will be very hard to forget him. His legacy will live on forever.''