Mourners Remember New York Firefighter-Soldier Killed in Iraq

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (AP) -- The military and firefighting communities joined Friday to mourn a soldier who died in Iraq.

The Rev. Joseph Bayne, Catholic chaplain for the Buffalo Fire Department, called Staff Sgt. Christopher Dill ''a gentleman, a soldier, a firefighter who wore many uniforms.''

''Chris was proud to be an American. He was called, he went and he served, just like he did when he got up in the middle of the night'' to fight fires, Bayne said. ''He did it so that others could live. That made us proud to be his comrade and friend.''

Dill, 32, was fatally shot April 4 during an attack on his unit that was training security forces in Iraq. He was assigned to the Army Reserves 98th Division based in Rochester.

His family said Dill joined the Reserves after serving in Desert Storm with the 24th Infantry. He received the Bronze Star for valor late last year following a mission in Fallujah with some of the Iraqi troops he had trained.

An estimated 700 firefighters, some from as far away as New York City and Boston, gathered at St. Edmund's Church in suburban Buffalo Friday to remember Dill. About 200 soldiers were on hand.

''You seldom see the blue and green lines come together at a funeral,'' said Capt. Joseph Foley, president of the Buffalo Professional Firefighters Association. ''It's been a very powerful image, to see the two groups join to pay our respects to a hero.''

The program for the funeral Mass included both ''A Firefighter's Prayer'' and ''The Soldier's Creed.'' Mourners driving from the church to Mount Olivet Cemetery passed underneath arches formed by the ladders of fire trucks.

Dill's father, William, is an Air Force veteran and retired firefighter. He also is survived by his wife of five years, Dawn, his mother and two sisters.

Information from The Buffalo News