Five months after Sgt. 1st Class Will Lindsay died in combat, a few hundred residents, military companions, friends and family gathered at Parque de Vida on Saturday afternoon to honor the Cortez native and hometown hero.
Lindsay, a 33-year-old Green Beret based at Fort Carson, died March 22 in the Kunduz province of Afghanistan. At the Aug. 31 memorial service, his family and friends remembered who he was, recounting tales of his ingenuity, playful spirit and kindness.
“There will not be a day go by that I don’t remember his smile, his laughter,” said his mother, Tammy Lindsay.
The service was held at the Cortez park’s amphitheater, where bleachers were set up in a semicircle in front of the stage. His family and military peers sat front and center under an Army-green tent, wearing matching shirts of the same hue.
Hints of Lindsay blossomed throughout. A grinning photo of him beamed alongside the speakers’ lectern and leaned against a Scotch barrel, serving as a stand for his ashes, with a wreath of flowers representing different clans from Lindsay’s Scottish ancestry, his mother said.
Bagpipes and a presentation of colors kicked off the ceremony before military personnel, family and his companions took the microphone.
Lindsay was born and raised in Cortez. Both his grandfathers served in World War II – one has died, but the other, Richard Lindsay, a Navy veteran who founded the Cortez Flower Cottage, was present Saturday.
Will Lindsay’s parents, Grant and Tammy Lindsay, now own and run the flower shop on North Market Street.
Growing up, Lindsay was “intensely inquisitive” and inventive, said his mother.
“He would light up a room,” Tammy said to the crowd.
She recounted his ability to mimic voices and how he used this talent to make others laugh. She recalled teaching him to knit upon his insistence – just to learn how to cast the yarn creation off the needles.
One year at Christmas, he asked for a pressure cooker, hydrometer and “lots of sugar,” she said. His family entered the kitchen a few days later to find a host of stalactites hanging from the ceiling and cabinets.
His response? “‘It’s science, Mom,’” she said.
Her son was always self-sufficient and self-reliant, Tammy said. At one point, he started training and became “fit, strong,” although he hadn’t told his parents about his plan to enlist in the Army.
Lindsay graduated from Montezuma-Cortez High School in 2004 and joined the Army immediately after, enlisting on July 7 that year.
After he trained and finished Basic Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, Lindsay completed the Special Forces Qualification Course and was assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group in July 2006, according to his obituary.
Because of this, in 2006 Lindsay moved to Fort Carson, the home base for the 10th Special Forces Group. Four years later, he married Sarah Unger, and they had four daughters.
15 years of service: A Bronze Star, Silver Star, and a Purple HeartDuring his 15 years of service, Lindsay deployed seven times. Five of the deployments were to Iraq, one was to Tajikistan in support of a counter-narcotics mission and the final one was to Afghanistan.
Two of his military companions also spoke of Lindsay as a teammate.
“We loved Will,” one man told Lindsay’s family. He recalled Lindsay as a talented self-starter – and as something of a prankster.
“There is no one that I’d rather go across the River Styx with,” he added.
Lindsay’s military awards and decorations include the Silver Star Medal, Bronze Star Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, a Purple Heart, the NATO Medal, the Special Forces Tab, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Military Free Fall Jumpmaster Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge and the Chilean Airborne Wings, according to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
The Department of Defense announced Lindsay’s death on March 23, the day after the department said he died.
Another American soldier based at Fort Carson also died in combat operations that day. Spc. Joseph P. Collette, 29, of Lancaster, Ohio, was killed while supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
“Both soldiers died March 22 in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations,” the DOD said in its announcement.
A memorial also was held for Lindsay in Colorado Springs in April.
Lindsay’s local service was the second military memorial last week in Cortez. More than 400 people turned out Aug. 26 for a service for Marine Gunnery Sgt. Scott A. Koppenhafer, who died Aug. 10 in Iraq while supporting Iraqi Security Forces.
At Saturday’s ceremony, Master Chief Petty Officer Linley Leonard, retired from the U.S. Navy, introduced and concluded the ceremony, leading a benediction for Lindsay and commending his service.
“Looking out in the audience at the young men and women who are here today,” Leonard said, “they have had a glowing example of what to follow and how to do it.”
This story was updated to clarify the purpose of the Scotch barrel as a stand carrying Lindsay’s ashes. A prior version stated that the barrel served as a “flower pot.”It was also updated to include that Lindsay was awarded the Silver Star Medal.