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DL soldier laid to rest

Hundreds of people turned out at Grace Lutheran Church Wednesday morning for the funeral of Army Cpl. Troy Linden, who died July 8 in Iraq.

The 22-year-old soldier was killed in Ar Ramadi, when an improvised explosive device detonated near the military vehicle in which he was riding.

The Grace Lutheran altar was adorned with flowers -- mostly red and white, some blue, and a sprinkling of others.

Church members putting the room together earlier that morning said their favorite was a heart-shaped bouquet sent by members of Linden's unit in Iraq -- the 54th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, based at Bamberg, Germany.

Grace Lutheran Pastor Eric Lemonholm said churches from around the area sent help to make sandwiches, bring in extra chairs, and set up video and sound equipment in two large overflow rooms in the church.

WDAY TV of Fargo provided a video link to the Middle School auditorium, where overflow mourners gathered.

Outside the church, police officers and members of the Patriot Guard -- motorcycles adorned with American flags -- kept order and stood by to shield Linden's family from protestors.

The protestors never showed up. A fringe-element protest group from the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, which has picketed funerals of soldiers across the country, had posted on its Web site that it intended to be at Linden's funeral.

The Patriot Guard Riders had a strong presence at Wednesday's funeral, after helping escort Linden's body from Fargo on Friday to West-Kjos Funeral Home in Detroit Lakes.

Lemonholm brought a strong, simple message to those at the funeral: "God loves you. No matter what. You are loved, always, by God," he said. "Many of you know something of God's love, because you knew Troy.

"He was a loving son, brother, grandson, uncle and friend. He loved his family, his friends, his country, his God," Lemonholm said. "He lit up a room when he entered it, with his smile and good cheer."

Lemonholm just moved to Detroit Lakes this year, and said he regretted not having the chance to know Linden.

"But Troy was busy risking his life and giving his life to try to bring peace to a country on the verge of civil war," Lemonholm said. "Troy was putting his life on the line to bring order where there is chaos, to strengthen democracy in a land that has known only tyranny.

"Jesus said, 'No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends -- that's what Troy was doing -- he lay down his life for his friends at the front of their convoy, bravely leading the way through dangerous territory. He lay down his life for freedom in Iraq."

At the family's request, this newspaper did not attend the funeral. Lemonholm provided a copy of his remarks early Wednesday morning.

Linden grew up in rural Detroit Lakes, and graduated from DL High School in 2002.

He loved time spent with family and friends. He liked music and drama. He acted in several school plays, and was teaching himself to play the guitar. He also enjoyed tinkering with cars and snowmobiles, and four-wheeling in the mud.

Linden then moved to Billings, Mont. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in October 2003, and was sent to Iraq in October 2005.

His engineer duties included building bridges, clearing roads, and clearing roadside bombs.

Linden was known as a quiet, but thoughtful soldier, always bringing a big smile and a good joke, his family said in his obituary. His attitude was what everyone in the platoon needed to get through each day. There was rarely a mission on which he was not with the platoon.

Linden's awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Army Achievement Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Combat Action Badge and the Purple Heart.