PICKENS COUNTY—Saying goodbye to Army PFC Barrett Austin was tough. Even for people who did not know him personally.
Wednesday afternoon, the fallen hometown hero was laid to rest in Pickens. A service to commemorate his life was held at Rock Springs Baptist Church in Easley, and many from Pickens County communities turned out to pay their respects.
“This gives us an opportunity to show our honor and respect for this soldier, and to make sure he receives the dignity he is entitled to,” South Carolina Patriot Guard Ride Captain Ray Reid said. “He’s done so much for our country.”
Reid and many other veterans and civilians representing the Patriot Guard showed up hours before hand to form a flag line in Austin’s honor. Reid says they do it all out of respect.
“These soldiers gave their lives to defend our rights and our freedoms,” Reid said. “We just want to show our respect.”
The crowd on hand included many who served, and many who are currently serving in the military.
“We had a lot of veterans and a lot of parents of veterans here,” Reid said. “We have parents of a soldier who lost both legs. We have parents of a son who is headed to Afghanistan here. Everyone is here for this fallen soldier.
It’s awe-inspiring to the family when they come out to see the people lining the sidewalks with American flags. Everyone is here for the simple purpose of honoring soldiers like Barrett.”
During the memorial service, friends and family closest to Austin gave a glimpse into his life. Folks talked about his thirst for adventure, peaceful spirit, kind heart and compassion.
“Barrett’s decision to join the military was completely selfless,” one speaker noted. “It had everything to do with ensuring you all could have the freedom you have today.
Barrett answered the call to defend freedom.”
When describing some of Austin’s qualities, a few important characteristics stood out.
According to those closest to him, Austin was a premier example of leadership, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.
Many in the crowd waiting to say goodbye to the 20-year old never got a chance to meet Austin, but if the description of his life had any accuracy, it can certainly be said he died protecting their freedom as well.
A friend of Austin’s shared a quote during the service he believed was important on this day.
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” –General George S. Patton