A Hero's Farewell

Cars lined the roadway one after another, all family and friends there to pay final respects to Sgt. Robert Shane Pugh of Causeyville. Last week he was killed during a roadside bomb attack while on duty in Iraq.

Deployed in January, March 25 would have marked Shane and his wife Amanda's first year anniversary. While deployments can be trying for soldiers, military officials want to remind civilians that it's tough on their family's as well.

"God bless Shane's family," says Maj. Gen. Harold Cross with the Mississippi National Guard. "I know they're going through a very trying time, but he was a genuine American hero of the first order."

He’s a hero in more ways than you might realize. According to military records Shane, who was a combat medic, instructed fellow soldiers how to treat not only him but another soldier who was wounded in the blast which ultimately claimed his life. Although Shane did not make it, things are somewhat different for the other soldier.

"I was with that soldier that he Shane helped yesterday at the hospital," says Maj. Gen. Cross. "He's undergoing surgery even now and he's been through four surgeries and probably will make it because of Shane's actions."

Shane, who was a member of the 155th Army National Guard Brigade out of McComb, is one of now six local soldiers who have been killed in combat since the start of the war in Iraq. The others are 21-year-old Damian Heidelberg of Shubuta who was killed in a helicopter crash in November 2003, 21-year-old Joshua Ladd of Neshoba County who died in action last May, 19-year-old Chris Mabry of Lauderdale County who was killed during an ambush last May, 25-year-old Matt Stovall of Philadelphia who died in the line of duty this past December, and Robert Allen McNail of Meridian who died in action last month.

"Every soldier has a tremendous sacrifice to make," says Maj. Gen. Cross. "Financially, being away from their homes. Being away from their children and wives, mothers and fathers, so let's remember them in our prayers and let's remember to support them in every way we can."

Currently, more than 4,000 Mississippi guardsmen and women are serving in the War on Terrorism. In coming months, Maj. Gen. Cross says more soldiers will likely be called to duty.