By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
CORINTH – The sounding of taps Monday afternoon at Corinth National Cemetery signaled an end to the community’s final ceremony for its fallen soldier.
Staff Sgt. William S. “Seth” Ricketts, 27, was laid to rest with full military honors, surrounded by hundreds of family, friends, fellow service members and many other sympathetic well-wishers.
The honor guard, rifle salute and other aspects of the funeral detail were conducted by members of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
Patriot Guard Riders escorted the funeral procession.
Ricketts, a U.S. Army paratrooper, became the first Northeast Mississippian to die in Afghanistan when he was killed Feb. 27 in Bala Murghab by insurgents who attacked his unit with small arms fire.
The noon funeral service at the Crossroads Arena and burial rites at the cemetery were marked by somber and solemn proceedings.
But people who knew Seth Ricketts best – and spoke lovingly of him during the funeral service – described a man who could appreciate a lighthearted moment in the midst of the most serious occasion.
“To the little girl whose bracelet fell off and rolled across the aisle, don’t be embarrassed,” Ricketts’ uncle, retired Lt. Col Victor Hearne, said as he began his remarks on behalf of the family – his sister and brother-in-law, Sandi and Bill Ricketts.
“Seth was full of life, and that’s the kind of thing that would have made him laugh.”
Hearne involved the thousand or so mourners who attended the service, asking for a show of hands.
“How many people here have heard of a selfless act of Seth’s, or had him do a selfless act for you?”
The widespread response to his question, Hearne said, demonstrated the man of strong character that Seth had become.
Seth Ricketts’ younger brother, Ben, paid tribute with a guitar solo, “Brothers.”
A stoic but tearful widow, Rose Jones Ricketts, counted the blessings of her too-short life with Seth and their two young sons.
“I find myself counting my blessings and thank God every day for giving me the love of my life early,” said Rose Ricketts, who is expecting their third child in September.
“I thank God for our children through whom Seth will live on forever. I thank God that he called me every day before he went to bed to say, ‘Have I told you today how much you mean to me and that my love for you grows more and more each day?’ I thank God he believed in Jesus Christ, and that one day I’ll get to see him again, hug him, love him, cry with him…”
Fellow soldiers from Seth Ricketts’ years as part of the 508th and his five deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan told of their relationships with him.
Matt Ritter of St. Louis told of two tours he served with Seth, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.
Joe Moser of Highland, Ind., said he and Seth had forged a “bond that could not be broken” through multiple tours together.
Sgt. Quinton Campbell of Boston, Seth’s squad leader during two Iraq tours, said Seth was a man whom he trusted implicitly.
Chris Ethridge of Paducah, Ky., said Seth was the friend by whom he measured every other friend.
In the eulogy for his son-in-law, the Rev. Warren Jones said that every life given for someone else brings to mind the passion of the Cross, and Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for all mankind.
He thanked God for his daughter’s and grandchildren’s chance to have Seth in their lives, saying his daughter’s “love of a lifetime,” and the love of a father the grandchildren knew was something many children never experience.
Sgt. Kevin Allen of Chino, Calif., said he and Seth, after four years as roommates, “had reached a point in our friendship where no words need to be said. We knew what each other were thinking.”
The two men would jokingly discuss the super powers they would like to have if that were possible, Allen said, and the discussion would end with Seth saying the discussion was pointless because “I’m invincible.”
“It’s true,” Allen said. “He is invincible. His arms have stretched out and brought this community together. He’s done all this from the grave. Isaiah 54:17 says, ‘No weapon formed against you shall prosper. And every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from me, says the Lord.’ Yes, Seth is invincible, and we all can achieve the same thing.”
Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or firstname.lastname@example.org