Tommy Don Butler
Specialist 4th, United States Army
a contemporary press report: 20 March 1991
Texas soldier, 22, given hero's burial
A March wind, cold and gusty, tugged at the barren trees of Arlington National Cemetery as Tommy Don Butler, a 22-year-old Texan killed in the Persian Gulf, was buried in a muddy plot next to the fresh graves of four other soldiers.
With jets rumbling across the sky, Major Harry Gilman, a Chaplain, talked about the Amarillo native and Army Specialist who died when a bomb exploded in the days after the cease-fire. "What Tom has taken, he's taken the love of those who gave him life, he's taken the friends and memories of growing up, being a brother, being a son," Gilman said Tuesday. "Then he grew to be a young man. Because of the way he was raised, he would choose to serve his country in the Army, and now, regrettably, he's made the ultimate sacrifice," Gilman said.
Fragments of his words carried across the cemetery, with its identical white marble markers in perfect lines. Butler, a cannon crew member, was assigned to Battery B of the 3rd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery Brigade at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
He joined the Army at age 19, and died less than a month after his 22nd birthday. Butler was one of 25 Texans killed in the Gulf. Butler is the first Texan killed in the Persian Gulf to be buried at Arlington. His grave was carved from the muddy ground of Section 60 next to a Marine and three soldiers; all died in the Gulf.
Gilman called Butler a "young man whose life and character will always make a difference" as six men in uniform held taut an American flag over the silver casket. With Gilman's prayers over, the seven men in the rifle team aimed and fired, aimed and fired, aimed and fired. The bugler played a slow and mournful taps. The sun, which had disappeared behind a gray cloud, reappeared as the casket team silently folded the flag into a thick triangle. Gilman knelt to give it to Butler's mother, Kathleen Butler; a second went to his father, Captain Gary Butler of the Potter County Sheriff's Department. Butler clenched it to his heart, hugged it tight, and turned his pained face to the sky. As the rest of the family walked away from the grave, Butler's mother stepped toward the casket, caressing it with her hand, before turning away.
Section 60, Grave 7719
Posted: 28 January 2001 Updated: 23 January 2002 Updated: 7 July 2003 Updated: 23 November 2003
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 27 June 2003