Claremore Daily Progress

Chelsea

August 17, 2011

Peterson remembered as a hero

Family, friends gather to honor former Chelsea resident

CLAREMORE — From all walks of life, they came — men and women, young and old, representing all classes and races.

There were civilians and military personnel alike, both retired and in active service, from the privates to the colonels, dressed in their fatigues and dress uniforms.

Friends, family, and fellow soldiers converged on Claremore Tuesday morning, assembling to pay tribute to the life of fallen soldier Sgt. Anthony Peterson.

Chelsea graduate Peterson, 24, died Thursday, Aug. 4 in Afghanistan, while serving his country in the U.S. Army.

Tuesday morning had nothing to do with how Peterson died however — rather, it had everything to do with how he lived.

“A hero is defined as someone who selflessly gives themselves to the service of others,” said Army Chaplain Richard Dominic at Peterson’s service. “The ancient Greek word for hero actually means ‘one who protects, one who defends’ — as a hero, Sgt. Peterson exemplified the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.

“He was an American soldier, a warrior and the member of a team,” Dominic said. “He always put his mission first, never accepted defeat, he never quit, he would never leave a fallen comrade. He was disciplined, physically and mentally tough. He stood ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat — he was a guardian of freedom, and of our American way of life — he was an American soldier.

“Most importantly, I think we need to remember that Sgt. Peterson was, above all else, a child of God,” he said. “He loved the Lord Jesus Christ, and if he wanted anyone to know anything today, it would be that — and that the Lord Jesus would receive the glory for a life well-lived — his life.”

Also speaking at Peterson’s memorial was his former pastor Ricky Van Pay.

“I had the honor and privilege of being Anthony’s pastor for a couple of years, and as I told his mom and dad, he was really more like a pastor to me,” Van Pay said. “He was eight years younger than me, but I looked up to him far more than he probably looked up to me. God’s word says He is looking around the Earth, looking for those who are willing to give their heart to Him — when He sees that kind of man or woman, He basically says ‘Watch out’.

“There is no doubt in my mind that in Anthony, He found such a man,” he said. “I know the Lord found a man whose heart was completely surrendered to God. Anthony may have been honored with many (military) medals, but with all respect to them and how well-earned they may be, we know that those medals don’t hold a candle to the eternal medal Anthony is now receiving — his crown of glory — in Heaven.

“And as Anthony’s day of celebration progresses and we honor his promotion on to Heaven, my prayer today is that hell would be nervous because of what might just happen in the hearts of men and women if they just open their eyes and open their hearts,” he said. “They’ll see the life of a man that was lit on fire and passionate for the name of Jesus Christ, and that that same passion and that same spirit and that same servant’s heart, and that tenderness and big smile of Anthony’s would live on in the hearts of all of us today — that’s my prayer for myself, not just as his pastor, but as his friend and his brother.

“Anthony understood that the gospel isn’t just something we speak out of our mouths from a book,” he said. “He understood that it was by our hands and our feet that we give out to others, so may Anthony Delmar Peterson live on in our hearts, and may we take a piece of him with us today.”

Van Pay then shared some of his memories of Peterson.

“In 1st Thesselonians, Paul said ‘I didn’t just share the gospel with you, I shared my life with you’, and that’s what Anthony did with those in his life,” he said. “I had the opportunity for a couple of years what we called ‘The League of Brothers’ — myself, Anthony, and three other guys — that came out of Anthony and I meeting at a restaurant and considering how powerful it would be for a group of men to come together and just be completely open with one another — to man up — get in each others face, challenge each other, keep each other accountable, sharpen each other, and that’s exactly what we did.

“Anthony would call me up out of the blue and ask if there were any single mothers in the church, and we’d go to Wal-Mart to get her groceries and diapers,” he said. “Two grown men with a grocery cart full of diapers — I let him push that around. Another time, Anthony had a friend who’d hurt his arm so we went to his house to mow his lawn without even telling him— that was Anthony — if you knew him, he was ‘Mr. Random Acts of Kindness.’ He celebrated everybody’s life, and I think he’d look around at this church today and be so humbled and broken that you all came out to pay tribute to his life — that never happened. He was never about serving himself, he was always about serving others.”

A parting memory Van Pay shared of Peterson was that of a camping trip in Arkansas — a memory which drew smiles and laughter from those in attendance.

“One time, Anthony took me on this survival camp-out in Arkansas,” he recalled. “We went into the wilderness and weren’t going to eat anything that we didn’t catch ourselves — we ended up for six hours, just laying on our backs talking like junior high girls — we tried to start a fire with our socks and it didn’t happen.

“While we were trying to build the fire, a huge snake crawled between my legs and I told him, ‘Dude, I can’t handle this — let’s hike out of here’, so we wound up sleeping in my car,” he said. “I lost some major ‘man points’ with him that night.”

Peterson’s friends and family members also shared their memories of the fallen soldier, remembering him as a “generous spirit” who “loved Jesus and his family more than anything.”

Following Peterson’s service, a graveside service was held in Ft. Gibson National Cemetery under the direction of Musgrove-Merriott-Smith Funeral Service & Crematory.

Peterson is survived by his son, Dakota Peterson, parents, Garth and Terra Peterson, siblings, Robert Peterson and Brittany Nicole Louise Peterson, and several other family members.

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