Saying goodbye to a soldier in Troy
TROY - Last Thanksgiving, Ryan Jayne couldn't believe his eyes - no one had made rolls for the traditional family feast.
Tad Culkin, a family friend, said that Jayne had commented at the time, "how can you have a Thanksgiving without grandma's rolls?"
Culkin said Jayne's aunt then promised him that she would have rolls for next Thanksgiving.
"Ryan, this year there will be rolls at the Thanksgiving dinner table, just for you," Culkin promised during a candlelight service Sunday in Troy in honor of Jayne, a fallen solider.
Jayne, 22, of Campbell, N.Y., who was a Troy native, died Nov. 3 when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device in Paktia province, Afghanistan, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Staff Sgt. Dain T. Venne, 29, of Port Henry, N.Y. and Spc. Brett E. Gornewicz, 27, of Alden, N.Y. were also killed while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They were assigned to the 178th Engineer Battalion, 412th Theater Engineer Command, Oswego, N.Y.
Under a clear night sky at Alparon Park, hundreds attended the service as they paid tribute to Jayne. In the distance, a large flag was draped from the ladder of a fire truck. The candles held by the people attending the event pierced the darkness with tiny pinpricks of light.
And below a flag flown at half-mast, Jayne's photograph had been placed in the center of a heart-shaped wreath of red, white and blue flowers.
Jayne's cousin, Amber Martin of Gillett, attended with her family. "I think it's great," she said of the service. "He deserved it." She remembered Jayne's laugh and his smile.
Martin made 30 t-shirts that featured Jayne's photograph. Family members wore the shirts in honor of the fallen soldier.
As people walked into the park, Troy High School students gave them candles to light for the candlelight service.
One of the students, Emily Doud, said she gave out many candles.
"We lost count," she said.
A former serviceman, Willy Turner from Athens, saluted in front of Jayne's wreath, following the service.
"It's a soldier thing," he said. "I was paying my respects."
During his remarks, Culkin, who was the main speaker, remembered how Jayne's family described him - "fun loving, carefree, compassionate." Occasional sobs could be heard in the crowd.
"He always had a smile on his face; he was a jokester," Culkin remarked.
Culkin said that Jayne "loved to pick on his Grandma Pine so much" that his cousin asked, "who will pick on grandma now?"
Jayne's grandma, Letitia Pine of Waverly, N.Y. attended the service.
"He was a very good boy," she said. She noted that whenever her grandson talked to her, he would tell her how much he loved her.
Culkin also remembered how Jayne played in Little League and Junior Football in Troy.
"Many people here today remember him as that little boy," he said. "Ryan didn't play varsity sports, but he was everyone's biggest fan. He would go and cheer for his brother from the front row seat. That's the kind of person Ryan was. He loved to root for other people's success."
Culkin remembered how Jayne came home on leave, and surprised his brother at a basketball game.
"Ryan and Adam were not only brothers, but best friends. They did everything together."
Culkin recalled how they had plans to go to college together when Ryan Jayne got out of the service.
"They knew each other's thoughts, dreams, passions, and secrets." He said Jayne was a role model for his siblings.
"He will live on in their memories. He will be there rooting for them as they grow into adults. He will look down and be proud of them, as they are of him."
Culkin said Jayne loved his family and "wanted to be at all the family gatherings."
And Jayne was also a football fan. Specifically, Culkin noted that Jayne was a "diehard Dallas Cowboys fan."
He said Jayne knew "the players, their stats - he rooted for them like no other fan."
Culkin remembered how Jayne liked to "talk smack" with New York Giants fans, and "never backed down" from being a Cowboys fan. "They were his team," Culkin commented.
"Recently, Ryan purchased a car off Craigslist from Afghanistan," Culkin said. "That was the kind of person Ryan was, passionate and when he knew what he wanted, he went for it. It was his dream car, a 1987 Monte Carlo SS. He and Adam planned to restore the car to perfect condition. It was his pride and joy."
"Rest assured, Ryan, that those plans will be carried out."
Culkin talked about Jayne's past.
Jayne had attended the Troy Area School District, before moving out of the area when he was in middle school. He graduated in 2008 from Corning East High School. According to his obituary, Jayne was the recipient of the Judi McCort Memorial Scholarship for exemplifying courage, hard work, responsibility and dependability. He attended Corning Community College before joining the United States Armed Forces on Sept. 1, 2010, with an MOS of 12 Bravo Combat Engineer, specializing in route clearance, the obituary notes.
And Culkin talked about the plans that Jayne had for his future - going to college, getting married, buying a house, and having children.
"Ryan would have made a great daddy. Everyone who knew Ryan knew that he was someone special, and he was going to be someone great."
Culkin noted that Jayne's mother, Sherry Skeens, had received a Facebook post from a soldier who knew Jayne.
Culkin said that the soldier wrote that he "enjoyed hanging out with" Jayne and that Jayne was "very fun to be around."
The soldier wrote, "it is a privilege and an honor to serve and to know such a hero."
"Ryan liked to be the center of attention," Culkin said. "And today he is the center of attention. This is for you, Ryan. Thank you."
Jayne's step-father, Kent Skeens, thanked everyone for attending and supporting his family.
"The community support has been outstanding, and we couldn't have made it through this without each and every one of you," he said.
"Ryan is looking down from above right now, with a great big smile on his face and those great big teeth showing, just smiling and saying, 'hey, this is all for me,' and he's proud and happy ofâ¦your support, and he's happy that all these communities have come together in support of him and these other fallen soldiers. And don't forget about those guys that are still over there."
"God Bless each and every one of you, and God Bless America."
The service also featured the singing of "God Bless America," and a prayer by Calvin Cutting, pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Troy Township.
A three-volley gun salute was fired into the night, followed by the playing of Taps.
At the end of the service, a lantern with an orange glow was sent up in Jayne's memory.
It rose higher and higher into the clear, starry sky as the song "Heaven Was Needing a Hero" played.
On the ground, people pointed at the lantern as it soared.
They watched, and they remembered.
Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email; firstname.lastname@example.org