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Massillon honors sacrifice of fallen soldier

Published October 1, 2007
By Jim Carney
Beacon Journal staff writer

The pictures on the large screen of the Washington High School auditorium stage told the story of the life of a Massillon Tiger.

As piano music played over a loudspeaker, there was a photograph of the face of Cory M. Endlich as a little boy.
Then there he was with his two brothers, Ken and Kevin, and his parents, Randy and Cathi.
Next came a picture of Cory wearing a Bernie Kosar jersey, then as a grade-schooler in a soccer uniform, followed by the young boy holding a baseball bat.

A picture of the boy as a school patrol guard came up next.
And then there was the image of Cory in a Massillon Tigers Swing Band uniform carrying a tuba and of him in a cross-country uniform.

Finally, there was a picture of him as an American soldier and a fallen Ohio hero.
In front of the screen in the auditorium was the flag-draped casket of Army Sgt. Cory Endlich, a 2003 Washington graduate, killed by a sniper's bullet June 9 in Iraq.

The slide show of dozens of images of the 23-year-old's life continued playing in the hour leading up to his funeral, attended by several hundred on Tuesday.

"We are gathered here for a very solemn occasion," said the Rev. Paul Myers, former pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Massillon and now of Florida. "We have lost a son. We've lost a comrade. We've lost a faithful servant of our Lord."

Endlich was a member of 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division out of Fort Lewis, Wash. He was trained as a paratrooper and had served with the 82nd Airborne Division.

A second Stark County soldier, Army Spc. Zachary "Zach" A. Grass, 22, of Sugar Creek Township in the southwest part of the county, was killed in a roadside bombing in Iraq on Saturday, but funeral services for the 2003 Fairless High School graduate have not been scheduled.

Endlich, Myers said, "was faithful to his nation. He was faithful to his God. He served and paid the supreme price for each and every one of us."

Myers said the war is now over for Endlich.
"He has crossed the finish line of life victorious far sooner than he or any of us ever anticipated," the minister said. "The battle is over. The pain and stress has ended. He is now enjoying a peace that is unlike anything we have ever experienced."

During the service at the school, Endlich's family was presented with medals he was awarded for his service in Iraq -- a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman's badge.

At the end of the service, his family clung to each other as they left the school and the casket was placed in a waiting Paquelet Funeral Home hearse.

Storm clouds rolled across the sky as the procession arrived at the cemetery for the burial at the Sunset Hills Memory Garden in Jackson Township.

Members of the 82nd Airborne Association Akron Chapter marched into the tent where family members sat.
Bob Winkler, 71, of Rootstown Township, chairman of the Akron group, presented Endlich's family with the seal of the 82nd Airborne Division.

And Cory Endlich's brother, 21-year-old Cpl. Kevin Endlich -- a Barberton Army recruiter who accompanied his brother's body home from Dover, Del. -- placed the seal on the casket.

Shortly before the funeral procession arrived there, bagpiper Willis Digman, 66, of Zoar and a recently retired principal in the Plain Local School district, was preparing to play Amazing Grace and other hymns for the burial.

"This one is tearing me apart," he said.

Those being killed in the war, he said, "are the best and the brightest."

Minutes after the service ended, heavy rains fell.

Name: Cory M. Endlich, 23


Died: June 9, 2007.

Service: U.S. Army, sergeant, with 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, formerly with the 82nd Airborne Division.

Hometown: Massillon.

Biography: Endlich, the son of Randy and Cathi Endlich, joined the Army after graduating from Washington High School in 2003, where he played tuba in the Massilon Tigers Swing Band. He was killed by a sniper's bullet in Taji, Iraq.

Quote: ''We have lost a son. We've lost a comrade. We've lost a faithful servant of our Lord.'' Rev. Paul Myers at Sgt. Endlich's funeral service.