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Hundreds say farewell as Army captain from Lexington buried in Arlington

Hundreds say farewell as Army captain from Lexington buried in Arlington

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ARLINGTON — Capt. Andrew Ross arrived in Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday atop a caisson pulled by six white draft horses. Hundreds of family, friends and service members followed him.

Eight pallbearers pulled his flag-draped casket from the caisson, a replica of an early 20th century wagon, and marched him to the gravesite. Service members saluted as the casket passed. Civilians held their hands over their hearts as the U.S. Army Band played.

The pallbearers secured his casket, lifted the American flag and held it tight over the wooden coffin — its red and white stripes reflected in the sheen of the wood.

Ross’ widow, Felicia, sat just feet away. The two married Feb. 17 — nine months and 10 days before Ross was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan during his second tour there with the U.S. Army.

“We commit his body to the ground,” the chaplain said as he made a sign of the cross over the casket. “Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.”

Ross, 29, grew up in a military family in Lexington. His father graduated from Virginia Military Institute and used to coach soccer there. His great uncle, Bobby Ross, was a VMI alumnus and once coached the San Diego Chargers to the Super Bowl. Another great-uncle, Donnie Ross, served for years in VMI’s athletic program.

Ross graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2011 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, and lived in Aberdeen, North Carolina.

“He knew early on he was going to be a serviceman,” David Miller, one of Ross’ former teachers at Rockbridge County High School, said after learning of Ross’ death in November. “When you choose that life and you go into special forces, you know what your risks are, and Drew didn’t shy away from that.”

Ross and two other servicemen were killed Nov. 27 after their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Andar, Ghazni Province in Afghanistan. Four other Americans were injured. Special Forces soldiers had been deployed to the city three months before to combat the Taliban, who claimed responsibility for the bomb.

Ross was awarded his second Bronze Star and a Purple Heart after his death. More than 900 people gathered to honor him in December at a funeral Mass at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Richmond, where Ross’ parents now live. And on Tuesday, he joined the 400,000 servicemen and women, families and two presidents buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

His gravesite is in Section 60, where the military buries men and women killed in active duty.

He is survived by his parents, grandparents, sister, two nephews and his wife, Felicia.

After the service at Arlington ended Tuesday, attendees began to walk back to their cars. Felicia stood from her seat and knelt on the soggy ground beside the gravesite. She rested both her hands on Ross’ casket and looked to the ground.

Ross’ family stood from their own seats and joined Felicia’s side on the ground. They placed their hands gently on her back.

In a Facebook post last month, Felicia said how much she appreciated and grew closer to Ross’ family after his death.

“Of course they raised the man everyone knew and loved, but the last 20 days have proven the greatness of each and every one of them,” she wrote. “I see a part of Drew in EVERY single one of them. And I will hold/lean onto these people for the rest of my life.”

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Alison Graham covers Roanoke County and Salem news. She’s originally from Indianapolis and a graduate of Indiana University.

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