Soldier's death a loss for ‘whole community’

Catherine Kurtelawicz

The small upstate village of Waterville, N.Y., was adorned with flags Friday in honor of Army Cpl. John Sigsbee. 

They hung from the sides of buildings, the fronts of stores and homes and from utility poles. Mourners at the fallen soldier’s funeral wore them on their hats, ties, coats, vests and cars. 

The flags represented the spirit Sigsbee embodied, Mike Belfield of Waterville said. 

“He was brave,” he said. 

The fewer than 2,000 residents in the village were blindsided by the death of the 21-year-old killed Jan. 16 in Balad, Iraq, many said. On Friday, the community pulled together to show their support on the day of his funeral. 

“The whole community has definitely felt a big loss,” Tom Morgan, owner of Morgan’s Hardware on Main Street, said. “I didn’t know him personally, but for somebody to go back after they’ve been injured once is heroic. To me, it’s just unbelievable patriotism there.” 

When Kay Schachtler of Waterville saw the flags and the homemade signs thanking Sigsbee for his service, she got a bittersweet feeling, she said. 

“I’m so proud,” she said of Sigsbee. “I feel sadness, and I’m proud at the same time.” 

And the whole town is proud, Schachtler said. 

Since John Peterson first heard about Sigsbee’s death, something has bothered him, he said. 

“Waterville has taken it hard, but think about the 3,900 other towns that have experienced this, too,” he said in reference to the hometowns of the servicemen and women who have died in Iraq since the war began in 2003.