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Final Salute

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County mourns fallen soldier

By Jamie Baker-Nantz

Karen Wallace spent her birthday accompanying the body of her son from the Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati International Airport to Eckler-Hudson-McDaniel Funeral Home in Dry Ridge on Nov. 5.

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Daniel Wallace, 27, the second youngest of her five children, was killed on Oct. 31 in Afghanistan when his unit was attacked by Taliban fighters.

Daniel or Danny, as his family and friends called him, was a combat engineer in the Kentucky Army National Guard. He joined in 2006 and was deployed to Afghanistan in May 2008 as a member of Company C of the 201st in Cynthiana.

Funeral services for him were held on Nov. 8 at Grant County High School. He was buried in the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery North in Williamstown.

“He’d give you the shirt off his back,” Karen said. “He was good-hearted and loved to aggravate.”

Danny visited his family just weeks before he was killed by a single bullet from a sniper in West Paktika Province.

His mother is grateful for that time.

“When he came home on leave, he’d just grown up so much,” she said. “He always was a good boy who loved to joke around and he still did, but you could just tell that he’d done a lot of growing.”

Danny graduated from Grant County High School in 2001.

When not working at Florence Mall, he loved working out at the gym. He was a fan of the Oakland Raiders and enjoyed playing the bass.

“He loved to read and probably read every book at the library, but he really loved playing video games with his son, Cody,” Karen said.

Danny had earned an associate’s degree in science from National College and was only seven classes shy of completing a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

“He loved people and he especially loved to aggravate his nieces, nephews and brothers,” Karen said. “I called him my jabber jaw because he never shut up and he had to have the last word.” Karen said her son always had to have the last word but was proud to serve his country.

More than 400 of Danny’s friends and family gathered in the gym of Grant County High School for his funeral service on Nov. 8.

Don Combs with New Covenant Church of God in Louisville read letters from Danny’s family.

“I love you daddy. I miss you very much. Everyone is sad,” wrote Danny’s son Cody, who was dressed in fatigues.

“He was a good solider,” said Roger Phelps, minister of the Family Tabernacle Church of God in Glencoe. “He was always one to jump in and get the job done.”

Phelps recalled receiving a phone call from Danny during a church service. He was requesting the church to pray over and then send him 30 prayer cloths for other soldiers.

His mother said his faith was important to him.

“It gives me some peace knowing that Danny is in heaven,” Karen said. “I know he loved the Lord and that’s where he’s at.”

Fellow soldiers filled a section of the bleachers at GCHS and as the song “Letters From Home” was played, several dabbed tears from their eyes. At the conclusion of the service, each stepped forward and offered a final salute.

The Patriot Guard stood vigilantly outside his funeral service proudly holding American flags. As fire trucks and emergency vehicles blocked intersections from Dry Ridge to Williamstown, the Patriot Guard escorted his funeral procession.

American flags lined Warsaw Road and U.S. 25 as the hearse carrying Danny’s body traveled from GCHS to the cemetery. Dozens lined the streets waving flags, saluting or holding their hand over their hearts as his funeral procession passed through Dry Ridge and Williamstown.

Wallace is the 17th Kentucky Army National Guard soldier to lose his life since the war on terror began in 2001. He is the third Kentucky Guardsman to be lost in Afghanistan.

Survivors include his parents, Karen and Kenneth Wallace, three brothers, Charles, Brian and Alex Wallace, a sister, Kim and a 6-year-old son, Cody Mardis and a 1-year-old daughter, Abigail Wallace.

Karen said she understood and accepted his love of his country and she’s proud of his commitment.

“I think I’ll miss his aggravating the most,” she said. “He always kept things alive here, but the house is going to be quiet now.”