February 18, 2011
HARROD — The photographs of Nathan B. Carse tell his story, but not the whole story.They show him with arms draped around high school teammates, posing proudly at his college graduation, flashing a smile while standing on a beach, dancing with family.But the whole story is that of a man who found his purpose, who had the guts to listen to his calling. In 2 Corinthians, Pastor Jonathon Hanover said, Paul tells us we write letters with the lives we live.“Nathan's life may have been cut short,” Hanover said. “But his letter was a great one. Nathan lived a life to be proud of.”After earning a master's degree in environmental engineering at Louisiana State University, Carse stayed in Louisiana taking a job with a company that was reconstructing sewer systems and levees in the Gulf Coast state. It was a good, well-paying, safe job. But Carse wasn't happy. Soon, he told his family he was about to make a drastic change, trading his uniform of Mustang blue for one of Army green and his college diplomas for boots and a rifle.On Feb. 8, Spc. Carse, a combat engineer, was killed in action in southern Afghanistan. Friday, hundreds of family members and friends gathered inside Crossroads Church of God to pay him their final respects.“He died a hero. A true hero,” sister Kristin Purdy said. “I may not approve of this thing we call war, but I stand behind our men and women, our troops, with every ounce of my heart. They make sacrifices, which some people don't think of, and that's why I'm proud to be a hero's baby sister.”Carse, 32, had been in Afghanistan for about four months and had two months to go before his unit was to return home. The military said he died of injuries suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.Friday, his family celebrated his life and shared their grief. They told of a man who loved his nephews, enjoyed the outdoors, commanded respect as well as he gave it, and was a skilled builder.“He could fix anything,” Purdy said. “Last year he built a beautiful deck outside of the back of my mom's house. He was always the handyman. He was the first person who taught me how to shoot a gun and the first person to teach me to throw a football.”After an hour long service, Carse's flag-draped wooden coffin was loaded into the gray hearse that led a long line of cars from the church to Woodlawn Cemetery in Ada. Roadside tributes lined the drive. A woman stood at the end of her driveway, flanked by fluttering American flags, her right hand covering hear heart. A silver-haired man wearing a veteran's ballcap stood beside his parked sedan, holding still in a solitary salute in perfect attention. Many flags were flown at half-staff.In the cemetery's southeast corner, Carse was laid to rest not far from a 72-year-old memorial honoring the area's men and women who served in times of war. It was fitting for Carse, the son of a Green Beret who wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfathers to serve in the military, to be among his brothers-in-arms. “He knew the risk, but he loved his country and chose to serve it in times of war,” Brig. Gen. John S. Regan said.Carse's intelligence and training could have marked him for officer candidate school. He declined, said Regan, the commanding officer at Carse's stateside base in New Mexico.“An officer of the highest caliber, he had that potential,” Regan said. “But he chose to do it his way. He wanted to first see what a solider's life was like.”The service had the traditional rites of taps and a sharp 21-gun salute. A bagpipist played “Amazing Grace.”Throughout the service, many remarked on what Nathan was: a son, a brother, an uncle, a nephew, a grandson, a teacher, a friend.“Nathan was all that and he was much more,” Regan said. “In the bottom of his soul, he was a patriot who loved his country.”You can comment on this story at www.limaohio.com.