Saturday, July 23, 2011

Staff Sergeant Charles P. Kauffman, Jr., United States Army, Ret.

Charles P. Kauffman, Jr., shown in the picture above, on January 28, 2011, passed away on July 13, 2011, at the age of 62, in Killeen, Texas.

Charles was known as "Skip" to his friends, and as "Tunnel Rat" to his fellow Patriot Guard Riders. Tunnel Rat was a faithful member of the Riders since December 22, 2008 and attended as many missions as allowed by his occupation as a truck driver. The picture above was taken at the inurnment service for Leon Rutledge which is detailed in a previous post. It was one of the last missions Tunnel Rat was able to attend, before lung cancer took over his life.

Tunnel Rat served his country, first in the United States Air Force, and then in the United States Army. He retired after more than twenty years of service. He served in Vietnam, from whence his moniker came; he was a "tunnel rat" there.

His many military decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, and six awards of the Good Conduct Medal.

Funeral services were held on July 18 at St. Luke's Methodist Church in Killeen. In attendance were the Patriot Guard Riders who formed a line of American flags at the entrance to welcome the arriving family and friends. After the service, the riders led the funeral procession to the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery at Killeen for interment services with full military honors.

As the procession arrived at the cemetery, the rains came. For the first time in many months, the Riders stood in the rain to honor a fallen hero, one of our own. Rumor is, that Tunnel Rat promised to send us rain!

The United States Army Honor Guard removed the flag draped coffin from the hearse and carried it into the committal shelter. The Riders then formed a line of American flags around the shelter, as the Minister said the final prayers in Korean and in English.

The Army detail of five rifles fired three volleys of fire, representing Duty, Honor and Country. The Army bugler played taps. The flag that draped the coffin was folded into the traditional triangle and ceremoniously passed to an Army Staff Sergeant, who presented it to Tunnel Rat's dear wife, An Sun, on behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Army and a grateful nation for his many years of faithful service.

The service concluded with the playing of Amazing Grace by the Piper for the Patriot Guard Riders.

Tunnel Rat was then laid to rest on the rain swept plain of the cemetery as the American flag flew at half staff on the hill above. Left to cherish his memory are his wife, two sons, two daughters and four grandchildren, and many other dear family, friends, fellow bikers and the Patriot Guard Riders of Central Texas.

God Bless America

While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free.
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.

God Bless America,
Land that I love
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam.
God bless America,
My home sweet home.

- Irving Berlin -

With thanks to Amanda Carter for additional photos, including the one at the top, and to the Killeen Daily Herald for biographical information.

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