Williamsburg is a small community, which explains how just hours after native son Spc. Chad Edmundson, 20, died Wednesday in Iraq, a makeshift memorial was established in his honor at High and Second streets.
By early Thursday afternoon, members of the Edmundson family were placing flowers on the dirt plot next to the First National Bank of Pennsylvania. A sign resting on a cross said, "Remember Chad."
Bank manager Dave Cadle said the land next to the bank was already rimmed with American flags in celebration of Memorial Day.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec)
The family of Chad Edmundson (top), including his brother, Alex, 12, placed flowers at a makeshift memorial Thursday afternoon at High and Second streets in Williamsburg. Edmundson was killed Wednesday in Iraq by an improvised explosive device.
Cadle, known to the young people of Williamsburg as "Coach," said Edmundson often attended Crossroads, a Christian youth group led by Cadle. He said establishing the memorial was "the right thing to do."
"We prayed with him," Cadle said as he remembered the soldier who graduated less than a year ago from Williamsburg Community High School in a class of 48 students.
Word spread quickly through the small community, Cadle said.
Other local service members who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom:
-- Sgt. Brandon E. Adams, 22, Hollidaysburg: Sept. 19, 2004
-- Gunnery Sgt. Ronald E. Baum, 38, Hollidaysburg: May 3, 2004
-- Sgt. Curtis J. Forshey, 22, Hollidaysburg: March 27, 2007
-- Spc. Michael A. Hook, 25, Altoona: Aug. 22, 2007
-- Staff Sgt. Daniel R. Lightner Jr., 28, Hollidaysburg: Oct. 27, 2005
-- Pfc. Larry Parks, 24, Newburg section of Logan Township: June 18, 2007
-- Spc. Clint R. Matthews, 31, Bedford: March 19, 2004
-- Sgt. Christopher A. Golby, 26, Johnstown: Jan. 8, 2004
-- Pfc. Aaron J. Rusin, 19, Johnstown: Oct. 11, 2004
-- Capt. Tristan N. Aitken, State College: April 4, 2003
-- Sgt. 1st Class David A. Cooper, 36, State College: Sept. 5, 2007
-- Spc. Craig S. Ivory, 26, Port Matilda: Aug. 17, 2003
-- Chief Petty Officer Michael E. Koch, 29, State College: Feb. 4, 2008
-- Sgt. Timothy R. Van Orman, 24, Port Matilda: Feb. 5, 2008
-- Pfc. Bradley G. Kritzer, 18, Irvona: May 5, 2004
The following local service member died supporting Operation Enduring Freedom:
-- Spc. Brett M. Hershey, 23, State College: March 26, 2005
Source: Department of Defense
"If anybody dies younger than me, it's not right. ... He was always a fine young man, very respectful," he said.
As Edmundson's 12-year-old brother, Alex, placed flowers around the memorial, their stepsister, Stephanie Foor, 19, cried in the arms of a friend. She spoke softly to BeBe LeBang, the young high school exchange student from Thailand who lived this year with the Edmundson family at 30 Bluebird Drive.
"I don't consider him a stepbrother. ... He was a good brother," Foor said amid her tears.
The Army was releasing few details about Edmundson's death on Thursday, but the family was told that he was killed and three others were injured by an improvised explosive device.
Edmundson was part of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard Company B, Second Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment, 56th Stryker Brigade, that left the Frankstown Armory in January and is headquartered at Camp Liberty north of Baghdad.
He had his heart set on serving in the military, said Alicia Mingle at Martin's General Store Thursday afternoon. Mingle graduated with Edmundson last year.
"He talked about joining the Army all [senior] year," she said.
Edmundson was remembered by many in town as a young man who loved wrestling and playing chess, and who made people smile.
"It's a tragedy. He's going to be missed. Everybody got along with him," Mingle said.
A counselor from Altoona Regional Health System, Altoona Hospital Campus, was at the high school Thursday to help students through their grief, principal Maureen Letcher said.
She said Edmundson was "a very, very nice young man. He always had a smile on his face. He would pretty much do anything for anyone."
She said Edmundson's death "definitely affects the student body and it will affect the entire community."
Karen Swab, a first cousin of Edmundson's dad, Roy, knew Chad all his life.
"He'd light up a room with that smile," she said.
Williamsburg Patrol Officer Dave Flaig described Edmundson as a good kid.
"You see it [a soldier's death] all the time on TV, but when it hits home ... you just have to keep the family in your prayers," he said.
Jessica Miller, Edmundson's sister, is 23. She said the two, like any brother and sister, would have spats, but added, "We were very close. He was one of my best friends." She said he loved "skateboarding, bowling, golfing, fishing, wrestling, being with friends and family, and making his own rules."
His favorite band, she said, was Strung Out, and two of the people he loved the most were his father and his Uncle Mike.
"Chad was a great kid and his entire family is so proud of him. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him," she said.
The family communicated with him through letters and by webcam online. He was very anxious to get home, she said.
The family has requested that his cousin Jordan Swartz, who also is in Iraq, be permitted to accompany his body back to Blair County. As of late Thursday, permission had not been granted.
Mike Kauruter, 24, who works at Roscoe's Auto across from the memorial in the center of Williamsburg, said he knew the family.
"I saw a lot of people looking," he said of the memorial. "That's real nice."
Funeral arrangements for Edmundson are being handled by Bolger Funeral Home in Williamsburg.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468. Mirror Staff Writer Wendy McCardle contributed to this story.