News 12 First at Five / Tuesday, October 29, 2013
AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- It was an emotional day in Aiken as a community said goodbye to former soldier Damian Baer. Baer was a Sergeant in the U.S. Army but most recently worked as a military contractor in Afghanistan. After surviving gunfire while he was on active duty, finding death in an office job has left family and friends shocked.
It's the kind of surprise you never want to get, but today the community banded together to give this soldier the goodbye he deserved.
Gunfire echoes in the air as veterans give Baer a send-off fit for a soldier.
"We provided a rifle squad for firing the traditional vollies and a bugler to take part in the military honors," American Legion Post 71 Commander David Myers said.
The burial included full military honors for the man who spent his life serving our country, first battling gunfire as a Sergeant in Baghdad, then as a military contractor in Afghanistan.
"The work he did was important both for the U.S. Army and for the security of this nation. There's a space in the military left open by him that's going to be hard to fill," colleague Daniel Flores said.
Flores worked with Baer as a contractor in Afghanistan and says news of his death was a shock.
"I think my reaction was 'no way.' I just couldn't believe it. The first words out of my mouth were 'no way,'" Flores said.
Unlike his overseas colleague, none of the American Legion veterans ever met the former soldier, but they say that didn't matter. Today was about honoring a brother.
"We're known as a band of brothers. We knew him. He was another veteran," Myers said with tears in his eyes.
"He made you be part of his family. He would pester you, but in the end you'd know he cared," Flores explained.
A renaissance man of sorts, Baer was known for singing opera, taking rides in his Dodge Viper, and giving great big "Baer" hugs.
Even with short notice, the other veterans responded to a local call to arms to honor the man they considered one of their own.
"Our organization exists to assist veterans throughout their whole journey of life. If they're healthy, we provide fellowship and support. If they're ill, love and comfort. And when time comes to say goodbye, to send them off properly with the honors that they earned and deserve," Myers said.
Baer's brother Adrian had this to say of his sibling: "My brother was a friend and a brother to many people across the U.S. and internationally. He was loved by everyone he met, and above all, he loved his family and he loved America. He was proud to be a patriot. He chose after the military to go back into harm's way, a war zone, to continue to support the military. He was so proud to serve. He went on to the Lord, went on to Heaven with a smile on his face. He died doing what he loved to do. He loved the work he was doing. He was a blessing to everyone and will continue to be an inspiration to everyone.
The funeral program says Baer died for health reasons. The family is asking instead of flowers to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project.
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