Remembering Lt. Bock

Thursday, November 2, 2006
Students and faculty of New Madrid Elementary School stood along the road to wave flags Wednesday as the funeral procession for 1st Lt. Amos Camden Bock passed by. (Diane L. Wilson)
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NEW MADRID, Mo. -- They lined the streets in silence. More than 1,000 of them stood holding American flags as the funeral procession crept by.

Time seemed to stop in New Madrid Wednesday as virtually all of its cotton workers, firefighters, veterans, schoolchildren and farmhands took time to honor a hero.

Some saluted, some wiped away tears, others just stared at the ground as the body of 1st Lt. Amos Camden Bock was driven to Evergreen Cemetery.

Bock, 24, died Oct. 22 while serving in Iraq. The West Point graduate and platoon leader was scheduled for discharge Nov. 14. Reports say his vehicle struck a roadside bomb while on patrol in Baghdad.

"He came back early," said Pastor Randy Tochtrop. "He came back not just to a house on Davis Street but to his permanent home with God."

Bock was laid to rest with pallbearers made up of a military honor guard from the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Ky., a base where he once trained.

An honor roll student, Bock joined the National Guard while still in high school. He was part of the 1140th Engineer Battalion, Company C in Sikeston. He excelled there and in the summer of 2000 entered West Point as one of the Army's 1,200 elite candidates for officer training.

At West Point he majored in geospatial engineering, a field of geographic mapping, and received his degree in 2004. He deployed to Iraq in late November 2005.

During the funeral at Immaculate Conception Church, a fellow West Point graduate who both roomed and trained with Bock at Fort Campbell remembered his friend.

"He was loyal, someone you could count on never to let you down even if he was slightly sarcastic while he was doing it. Simply put, he was a great friend," said 1st Lt. Travis Masters of California, who recently came back from serving in Iraq.

Bock, Masters said, is the fourth graduate from their class at West Point to die overseas.

"It doesn't hit you until it happens to you. You lose one of your friends. There's really nothing you can do to prepare you for it," he said after the service.

"When you're in Iraq and you lose a soldier, you have a ramp ceremony where all the units on the base come out to the C-130 and salute while they take the soldier on the airplane. After that, you're focused on the mission, and that keeps your mind occupied. It's when you're here with the family that it really hits home what we've lost."

Childhood friend Natalie Hunter grew up next door to Camden on a section of Davis Street she nicknamed "Bock Block" because so much of the family seemed to live there. At the funeral she said growing up with the red-haired, puckish troublemaker was never dull.

"My parents called him 'that damned Bock kid,'" she said to laughter from the crowd. "And he didn't mind that because it meant he could curse when he repeated it."

"He was a force to be reckoned with," she said.

Hunter remembers setting up a lemonade stand only to have Camden take it over and start selling cookies. She remembers Super Soaker fights where he always seemed to have the biggest, baddest water gun. She remembers driving around in his first car, a 1970s Chevette, and getting covered with dust from the car's air system. She even remembers Camden playfully asking her for a picture before he left for West Point, telling her he'd charge his fellow cadets $10 each to keep it by their bed at night.

Camden, she said, loved a joke and loved to question authority.

"He was the kid who challenged every teacher and who could make the weaker ones shake when his hand went up in class," Hunter said.

"He will be remembered fondly, talked about often and never forgotten."

Everyone knew his playful side, but few knew how dangerous his missions were in Iraq. That, say his friends, was a burden he chose to keep to himself. The most anyone could get out of the soldier was a playful "Baghdad still sucks."

It was a choice he made to spare his mother and tight-knit family added worries. "Camden kept us in the dark," his uncle, Lynn Bock, told the assemblage.

Bock was charged with leading 20 men and four Humvees on patrols on the south side of Baghdad. A typical schedule would be three days of active patrol and one day for vehicle repairs.

Lynn Bock also passed along a message from Mike Anderson, a fellow platoon leader serving in Iraq who called Bock "rock solid in combat. He was never fazed or afraid of an enemy attack. He was probably the bravest man I ever met. ... You should also know that Amos' soldiers worshipped the ground he walked on."

Lynn Bock said he got an idea of this bond several months ago when his nephew was home on leave. When Lynn asked him about the platoon he spent an hour and a half telling him the life stories and quirks of all of the men he led on patrol.

"He called them 'my guys,'" said Lynn.

The funeral procession led to Evergreen Cemetery at the edge of New Madrid. The ceremony was punctuated by rifle volleys and a fly-over by a medical helicopter. Bock's parents , Riley and Jill Bock, were given a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and the flag from his coffin.

Friends continue to visit Bock's MySpace page and other Internet sites to post tributes. A visitor to the page gets a good idea of the soldier's sardonic wit. His stated motto: "No good deed goes unpunished."

Also evidence of an active mind who embraced life's contradictions, Bock the avid hunter and soldier lists Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms" as one of his favorite books.

tgreaney@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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