News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

June 6, 2012

A final salute for Spc. Arronn Fields, Nov. 27, 1984 — May 21, 2012

Governor, Indiana National Guard praise sacrifice as Clay County soldier laid to rest

BRAZIL — More than 2,200 U.S. flags lined the route to Clearview Cemetery in Clay County where Spc. Arronn D. Fields was laid to rest Tuesday with full military honors.

Earlier, his funeral at The Church of the Nazarene brought remarks from his pastor; from Indiana Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger; and from Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Umbarger said Fields was the 23rd Indiana National Guardsman and the 197th Hoosier killed since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Fields was posthumously awarded the combat action badge, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

Fields, 27, specialist with the Indiana National Guard, died May 21 as a result of injuries sustained during a rocket propelled grenade attack in Qal-ah-ye Mizzaa Jal, Afghanistan. He had deployed in January with the 381st Military Police Company, 81st Troop Command as part of Task Force Guardian.

Umbarger said he did not meet Fields, but “has come to know him through the eyes and cherished memories of those closest to him,” including soldiers who served with him. He shared a few memories of Fields from fellow soldiers, whom he did not name, who served with him as part of Task Force Guardian.

“One of the best memories I have of Arronn,” Umbarger read of a fellow soldier’s memory of Fields, “was always before we went out on a mission. He would always be the first person in the truck, on time, every day.

“He would either be in the driver’s seat wiping his dash and windows or outside the truck wiping down his beloved international logo on the hood. He loved his truck, so much that I remember asking him, ‘Hey, Fields, what are you going to do with your truck when you go on leave?’ He quickly responded back, ‘No one is driving my truck. I am going to take it home with me. It is gonna fly all the way back to Indiana,’ ” Umbarger read.

“He was always the guy to go to when you were down. He could always make you laugh. There was a night a couple of weeks ago when Arronn and I were out smoking and joking, when I said, ‘Ya know man, when it is my time, it is my time. And ya know I got no qualms with that,’ ” Umbarger read.

“Soon after that [Fields] looked at me and said, ‘Shut up, Robinson. You are going home. You got that,’ ” Umbarger read. “Arronn was always the guy to keep you on track when you started to fall off.”

Umbarger said another soldier wrote: “Arronn was an outdoorsman. He was the symbol of saying, a good country boy can survive. Arronn was a simple guy. … He never wanted to be the center of attention. He kept to himself unless you were talking about fishing or what his plans were for his muscle cars when he got home.”

“He was the guy that made his bed each and every day,” Umbarger read. “He always had a cup of coffee or a cigarette in his hand. He was the guy that loved his family, loved his friends and he certainly loved us in his squad.

“Arronn didn’t complain a lot. He just did his job and did it better than any other soldier I have ever met. He was the true definition of the American soldier; not here for the paycheck or his own military career, but enjoyed what he did. …”

Another was from a senior non-commissioned officer who went on a mission with Fields. “At the end of the trip, while clearing our weapons … I asked Fields, ‘Hey were you driving this one on this route?’ He just quietly responded, ‘Yep.’ ” Umbarger read.

“I told him that was perfect driving. I couldn’t have asked for anyone to do a better job, great job, to which he looked at me and just simply said, ‘thanks,’ ” Umbarger read.

Gov. Daniels said he attended as a representative of the 6.5 million “most patriotic people in the United States,” referring to Indiana residents.

“Two R’s, not one. Two N’s, not one. One A, not two,” Daniels said. “I run into some unusual spellings as I move around our state, and I am a fan of those. In this case, it is very obvious that the unusual spelling of Arronn’s name was entirely fitting, because this was an unusual young man,” Daniels said.

Daniels said he has learned that Fields was “a person of great character … a person of unusual fortitude and courage, as he demonstrated not once, but twice in the service of our nation. On the other hand, there were things about him I loved learning that were very, very typical. I mean old cars and fishing: how Hoosier is that?” Daniels said.

“Someone believed that maybe one day Arronn was destined to be a history teacher,” Daniels said. “I don’t know, but he is part of history now and always will be, a very profound figure in the life of this community, our state and our nation.”

The governor said the funeral in the church showed that “Arronn knew in his heart that a better home awaited him. He did his duty, he took the risks he took, serene and secure in the confidence that can only come from strong faith,” Daniels said.

Pastor Gary Bechtel told those at the funeral, reading from a biblical passage from Proverbs, “to trust in the Lord will all your heart, lean not on your own understanding and in all your ways, submit to Him and He will make your path straight.

“We must accept that we simply don’t understand it all,” Bechtel said. “Lean not on your understanding. When tragedy strikes … sometimes we want to question God a little bit. Why would God, if he really is a good god, allow something like this to happen to such a fine young man?” Bechtel said.

“There are no easy answers to these questions …,” Bechtel said. He read a biblical passage from Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

“In other words,” Bechtel said, “we will never understand many of the things that we experience in this life. We need to hold onto faith and trust in the Lord with all your heart,” he said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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