Oak Harbor soldier remembered

OAK HARBOR Keith Kline's smile beamed down on friends and family. And his life shed l
JACOB LAMMERS
May 24, 2010

OAK HARBOR

Keith Kline's smile beamed down on friends and family.

And his life shed light into the hearts of hundreds who attended his funeral service Monday.

"He always found a way to make you laugh, make you smile," said Joe Bergman, childhood friend and fellow soldier. "That type of mentality does not come along often."

Kline, 24, a 2002 Oak Harbor High School graduate, was buried Monday in Union Cemetery. A member of the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade based in Fort Bragg, he was killed by a roadside bomb July 5 while serving in Baghdad.

"He would always have a huge hug and kiss for me. He was always such a loving person," said Kline's aunt, Diana Walker.

Walker, a master sergeant in the Air Force, saluted her nephew's casket in the center of Oak Harbor High School's auditorium while family members wept.

"My sister will always remember her son as the man who would do anything for anybody. He was her rock," Walker said. "Keith will never be forgotten, and he will always, always be loved."

Gary Lipstraw, Kline's uncle, regarded Keith's life as a time of "laughter and joy."

"This young man captured everybody he knew. He was full of tea and vinegar," Lipstraw said with a laugh.

Kline was a member of the wrestling team in high school and placed sixth in the state wrestling tournament his senior year. Kline, a 103-pound wrestler, was a fighter on the mat who never gave up, despite his small size, said George Bergman, his high school wrestling coach.

"Keith just made people feel better," George Bergman said. "Keith ... thank you for touching my life."

Staff Sgt. Ellison Hunt worked alongside Kline four years, spending an occasional holiday with his "kid brother."

"I cared about that kid an awful lot," Hunt said. "He was a treasure. One of the greatest people I've ever met."

Hunt spoke with Kline a couple of days before he left for Iraq. Kline was on his first tour of Iraq and had been serving there for three months.

"He loved the Army. He liked being here," Hunt said. "He wasn't scared. He knew he had to go."

Col. Ferdinand Irizarry, commander of the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade, knew Kline and his commitment to serving his country.

"Keith was a great soldier. As his commander, it was an honor to have someone with such courage and strength in our ranks," Irizarry said. "Keith's courage and strength live on in the hearts of every soldier in the 95th."

After the service at the school's auditorium, Kline's casket was carried by horse-drawn carriage from the school to the cemetery. Oak Harbor residents lined Ohio 163 greeting Kline's casket with American flags.

"Obviously this community fostered that personality," said Charles McGarry, former company commander of the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade. "We weren't surprised that he had such a large turnout."

Kline's sacrifice impacted his community and also a country music star.

Toby Keith was performing at Country Concert in Fort Loramie when he heard about Kline's death. Keith, known for his song "American Soldier," dedicated his newest song "Love Me If You Can" to Kline's memory.