Friends Salute Fallen MS Guardsman

Right before bagpipe music echoed through Riemann Funeral Home, Mississippi Adjutant General Harold Cross talked about the bravery of 1st Lt. Robert Oneto-Sikorski.

"He gave the ultimate sacrifice, all he had to give, so we could be free," the general said.

According to friends, Oneto-Sikorski always gave all he had. "We never thought one of our little crew, that we'd be burying him at 33," said Richard Breland.

Yet on a somber day at the Biloxi National Cemetery, Lt. Oneto-Sikorski received full military honors as America saluted a war hero one final time.

"Rob would tell you that if anyone had to die that day on the battlefield, it should be him instead of one of his soldiers," Gen. Cross told mourners. "That's a love of a great officer to his men. That's a mark of a great leader. That's a mark of a great American and that's a mark of a great patriot."

After the service, a teary eyed Breland choked up when he said, "I Lost a great friend."

A great friend -- and according to Sgt. Frank Johnson, a great soldier.

"He was the guy that was going to take care of you when you got your butt chewed by the captain," the 155th Brigade Combat Team member said. "He was the one that kind of dusted you off and pushed you back up. So he's just going to be missed."

Johnson served under the first lieutenant in Iraq. He happened to be in Mississippi on leave this week. So he made sure he attended his XOs funeral.

"It's heartbreaking. He was a good guy," Johnson said. "He's going to be missed."

Especially by the three young children who called Oneto-Sikorski dad. His oldest son received the flag that had been draped over the lieutenant's casket. The child's quick salute brought Richard Breland to tears. How, he wondered, could a friend he's known half his life be gone.

"You know, you worry about everybody but Bobby," Breland said. "He was just always a guy that was there to protect everybody else."

It was while he was protecting others in Iraq, that Lt. Oneto-Sikorski lost his life. According to Mississippi's top National Guardsman, "Lt. Robert Oneto-Sikorski now is indelibly etched in the history of this nation as laying down his life for our freedom."

During General Cross's speech, he presented the Oneto-Sikorski family three military medals. The fallen soldier posthumously received the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Mississippi Medal for Valor.