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updated: 2/9/2013 6:44 PM

First U.S. war casualty of 2013 is buried

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Washington Post

WASHINGTON -- A crowd of more than 100 family members, friends and uniformed service members marched slowly and quietly Friday down a hill at Arlington National Cemetery following Army Sgt. Aaron X. Wittman's coffin, draped with an American flag and carried on a horse-drawn caisson.

On a bleak, cloudy afternoon, Wittman, 28, of Chester, Va., was buried with full military honors in Section 60, where those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan lie. The crowd gathered around the coffin and bowed their heads as Army Chaplain Maj. Boguslaw Augustyn spoke to Wittman's family.

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The silence of the crowd was broken by three rifle volleys from a firing party and a solemn chorus of taps by a bugler from the U.S. Army Band, "Pershing's Own." Wittman's parents, Bertha and Duane, were then given the American flag by Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands as the band played "America the Beautiful."

Wittman's parents were also given two cards by Bobbi Green, a representative of the Arlington Ladies, a volunteer group representing Army leadership whose members attend every soldier's funeral at the cemetery. One of the cards was from Green herself; the other was from the chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno.

Wittman was killed Jan. 10 while serving in the Khogyani District of Nangahar province in Afghanistan, becoming the first U.S. casualty of this year. While on mounted patrol, he was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, the Defense Department said. He was with the 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, based at Fort Stewart, Ga.

Wittman was a 2007 graduate of the Citadel in South Carolina. According to the military college's website, Wittman's father, brother and sister-in-law are also graduates. Wittman's sister Amber served in the Navy, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

"I'll never forget Aaron's humor and optimism, even in the worst of situations," Wesley Walker, a classmate, was quoted as saying on the Citadel's website.

Wittman joined the Army in 2008 and arrived at Fort Stewart in 2012, according to Kevin M. Larson, a spokesman at Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield. Wittman was on his second deployment when he was killed. His awards included the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

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