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thedrifter
01-31-06, 08:24 AM
Dewey honored at military funeral
Phil Hayworth
Tracy Press

Beneath a steady rain at the Tracy Cemetery in a section known as Little Arlington, a row of seven U.S. Marines in dress uniform fired 21 rounds into the gray Tracy sky Monday.

The 21-gun salute was the final tribute to U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Christopher Dewey, 20, of Tracy, who was killed Jan. 20 by a suicide bomber while on duty at a checkpoint in Haqlaniyah, Iraq.

An estimated 800 friends, family, veterans and active-duty military attended an hour-long service at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church before making the 10-minute drive to the cemetery. About 35 uniformed Union City police — representing half the Union City force — made the trip to Tracy to pay their respects, along with a half-dozen Tracy police officers.

“Now he can rest knowing that his dream has come true,” said Union City Police Chief Randy Elibarri, who made Brandon Dewey an honorary Union City police officer. Dewey planned on becoming a policeman after his tour with the U.S. Marine Corps.

His father, Mark Dewey, retired last year from the Union City Police Department, where Dewey’s mother, Julia Conover, has worked as a dispatcher for 26 years.

Dewey’s stepfather, Scott Conover, read letters of tribute and remembrance written by Brandon’s father and mother, who sat side by side in the front pew a few feet from the flag-draped coffin.

“What will I do without you?” Julia wrote. “My heart is aching.”

Dewey was injured during his first tour in Iraq in 2004, for which he received a Purple Heart.

“That was to be the only Purple Heart he was allowed,” Mark Dewey wrote.

But the 2003 graduate of West High School was posthumously awarded a second Purple Heart on Monday at the graveside service by a U.S. Marine honor guard, who gave Dewey’s parents triangle-shaped American flags, folded according to a century-old tradition, while a Marine bugler played taps.

Later, “Amazing Grace” was played on Scottish bagpipes and a dozen white doves were released into the cold, overcast sky.

The graveside service was followed by a reception at Fry Memorial Chapel.

The services were imbued with a profound solemnity reserved for military funerals. Young men and women in crisp military uniforms joined older men and women, also in uniform, some coming from as far away as Fresno and Camp Pendleton, near San Diego.

“He was a good-natured young man and one of those Marines you really don’t have to worry about,” said Marine Capt. Stan Delaned, 29, who served as Dewey’s executive officer during his first tour in Iraq with the Third Battalion, First Marines.

“I remember he’d always get the best packages from home,” recalled Lance Cpl. Chris Haukom, 24, who also served with Dewey in Iraq in 2004. “One time, his family made a gift package for the whole unit.”

Dewey is the fifth Tracy serviceman to die in Iraq since the war began. U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Menusa, 33, was killed by enemy fire March 27, 2003; U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Steven H. Bridges, 33, died Dec. 8, 2003, in a Stryker vehicle accident; National Guard Sgt. Patrick McCaffrey Sr., 34, was gunned down in an ambush June 22, 2004; and U.S. Army Pfc. Jesse J. Martinez died in a Stryker accident June 14, 2005.

Tracy resident Shaun Fyfe, a civilian contractor, died May 9, 2004, of natural causes while working in Iraq.

• To contact reporter Phil Hayworth, call 830-4221 or e-mail phayworth@tracypress.com.

Ellie