By Robert Barron Staff Writer
Nearly a thousand people turned out Wednesday at Oklahoma Bible Academy to pay their final respects to Army Staff Sgt. Chris Hake, while thousands more lined Enid streets waving Ameri-can flags.
The two-hour funeral was a combination honor for Hake for serving his country and comfort to his family, said the Rev. Garvie Schmidt, of Enid Mennonite Brethren Church.
Hake was killed March 23 while on patrol in southern Baghdad. Three other soldiers died along with him. They were assigned to 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, of Fort Stewart, Ga.
Bagpipes played mournfully as the coffin was taken into and out of OBA, where Hake graduated in 2000, followed by an estimated 100 family members, including his wife, Kelli, and son, Gage, and his parents.
“Chris was committed to a cause, a mission. He gave 110 percent of himself to the cause that the people of Iraq and all people will be free,” Schmidt said.
He said one of Hake’s favorite sayings was” “God hasn’t given you more than you can bear.”
Throughout the service, which was attended by Gov. Brad Henry, friends talked about the type of person Hake was and his service to his country.
Several speakers talked about e-mails Hake sent to his family from Iraq. In them, he talked about the sacrifices he had to make in his Army career and his belief in God, saying he felt closer to God than ever before. In one e-mail, he said he was more at peace than he had ever been in his life.
The Rev. Larry Eschlinger, who performed Chris and Kelli Hake’s marriage ceremony, talked of how obvious it was they were in love. He also talked about Hake’s dedication and his service.
“We walk freer, the Iraqi people walk freer, the world is freer because of men like Chris,” he said.
Dallas Caldwell, former OBA headmaster, said Hake’s class was “fun-loving.” He joked about some of the things Hake and his friends did that they shouldn’t have.
“Chris was guilty, but he was always clean. He knew just when to get out. He was the guy who watched the door,” Caldwell said.
“They were a fun group. They were lighthearted, that’s how they lived life,” he said. “I loved that guy. He’s my hero.”
In a letter to Gage Hake, Hake’s year-old son, Caldwell said, “God weeps with us. God knows this is a wicked and hateful place.”
Hake will be buried Tuesday in Arlington National Cemetery.
He is the second Enid man killed in Iraq. Army Staff Sgt. Clint Storey was killed Aug. 4, 2006, and buried in Enid.