To Jeremy Burris the word "liberty" was more than the name of his hometown. It was something worth fighting for.
An all-American kid from a little all-American town, the 22-year-old Marine lance corporal died heroically in Iraq. More than a thousand people turned out Wednesday as a white hearse carried his body to burial in the historic 1800s Cooke Memorial Cemetery.
Within hours, the grave was desecrated. About 30 sprays of flowers were ripped apart, petals strewn over the loose earth. Flags decorating the gravesite were also torn down and sentimental notes and posters shredded.
"It looked like a big debris field about 40 feet square," said Liberty Police Chief Mike Cummings. "This wasn't done by the wind or animals. It was obviously intentional. We don't know if someone did this for a stupid prank or they were anti-war or what."
Burris was killed Oct. 8 by an explosive device in al-Anbar Province.
Minutes before his death, he rescued two soldiers wounded when a device exploded under their military vehicle. When Burris returned to the vehicle to retrieve some sensitive equipment, another bomb detonated, killing him, his family said.
"I can't believe this is anything specifically against us. The town has been so supportive," she said quietly from her home.
"Our strength comes from the Lord. This is what is getting us through all this. God is in control, not whoever did this. We don't have to worry or get revenge."
Burris was the oldest of her seven children.
Two other sons have enlisted in the military; one is in Iraq and another will be headed there soon.
Linda Paulson, who owns a gift store next to the Opry, believes the vandalism might have been done for political reasons.
"It makes me very sad that people don't show respect for a grieving family, no matter what their political beliefs are," she said.
Powered by ScribeFire.