Warrenton pays a tearful tribute to Sgt. David MittsWARRENTON - He was remembered as a young man who liked peanut butter, cheese and pickle sandwiches.

He was remembered as a friend. He was honored as a soldier.

Tissues were everywhere to dry tears in the Warrenton High School gymnasium at the funeral for Sgt. David Anthony Mitts, who was killed in Iraq. He was 24. His wife Tara is pregnant with their son, Landen.

"I did not know Sgt. Mitts, although I truly wish I had," Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski said. "But I do know how much he loved Tara, how much he was looking forward to the birth of his first child in February and how much a part of this community of Warrenton he was ... We will not forget who Sgt. David Mitts was."

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Gov. Ted Kulongoski pauses a moment at Sgt. David Mitts' casket before delivering his speech, saying, as a result of his death, "Oregon as a community will be forever dimmed."Mitts was among soldiers escorting a convoy that was ambushed in Mosul, Iraq, Dec. 4. When the shooting lapsed, Mitts looked out of the top of his Stryker armored combat vehicle, and was shot. He and another soldier from the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., died that day.

Great sorrow"These are moments of great sorrow and yet a profound sense of pride," said Mitts' uncle Jack Burkhart, who spoke on behalf of the family. He shared memories of a young man who wouldn't let anyone pick on his brothers or sisters and was partial to those sandwiches.

The flag-draped coffin dominated the scene, surrounded by poinsettias, red carnations and roses. More than 400 people, including soldiers, veterans, many friends and perhaps 100 family members, crowded into the folding chairs and bleachers in the gym for the funeral. The pallbearers included other soldiers. Except for a few children, whose antics made even the saddest people smile, the audience was very quiet, listening to the speakers.

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David Mitts' wife, Tara, is escorted by Sgt. 1st Class George Reed Jr., a casualty assistance officer.Dustin McGrorty, who plays for the St. Louis Rams, came home to talk about duck hunting in Mitts' prized baby-blue Ford Ranger on lunch break from Warrenton High.

"We'd hop in that thing the minute the bell rang," McGrorty said. The two young men would drive to David's home to put water on the stove for macaroni and cheese. They'd be back with a few ducks by the time the water boiled, and still have a few minutes to watch the Jerry Springer Show on TV before driving to class.

"I've lost my duck-hunting partner for life," McGrorty said, crying. "He's in a better place now, but I love him and I'm going to miss him."

"I don't know what the duck limit is in heaven," said Ray Charles Bergerson, another uncle and the minister presiding. "I don't think you're supposed to shoot angels, but I know God is taking care of David."

Tears turned to laughter for a moment.

DiscoveryKulongoski, along with Bergerson, acknowledged the pain. "Nothing, nothing can replace a child," he said. "At these funerals, there is no talk of politics. There is only community support."

He compared Mitts to members of Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery.

"The return of Army soldier David Mitts to his loving family and friends here in Warrenton will not make international headlines, but to me, honoring the life of David Mitts and the community that supports him is as important, if not more important, than honoring the first nonnative visitors to Oregon," the governor said.

"We will not forget who Sgt. David Mitts was, what he stood for and all he achieved in his short, but very meaningful life," he said. "David was his own corps of discovery, discovering within himself a calling to duty, to honor, and love of country."

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People attending the service watch as the casket of Sgt. David Mitts is taken to his final resting place.The governor said citizens can celebrate Mitts' life by giving the United States the same kind of devotion he did.

Bergerson agreed. "I don't want us to squander freedom," he said. "There was real good blood that was shed to give freedom."

He added that Mitts lives on, both in heaven and in the hearts of those who love him. "Little bits of David are all over you people. Maybe his grin, maybe that twinkle in his eye, maybe some of that mischief."

PresentationsThe governor knelt before Tara Mitts, and offered her a folded state flag. Maj. Gen. James Collins presented a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and a U.S. flag to Tara and Mitts' mother and father, Cindy McEwen and David Bright of Ocean Park, Wash.

"You are not alone," said Kulongoski, who said attending Oregon soldiers' funerals is one of his most important duties. "It touches every citizen in Oregon."

He said Oregon is a sadder place without Mitts, "a great soldier who no doubt found much of his strength and courage in your love."

Bergerson said Oregon, the United States and even Iraq are better off because of Mitts.

"Volumes of books don't cover the life that one person has and the effect that that person has on others," he said.

He said this is not the end of the line for Mitts. "I'm not saying there's an empty box there," Bergerson said. "There's a husband and there's a father, and there's a son and there's a brother. But the soul of David is with our Lord."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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