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Shells fly as Sgt. Islandia McIntyre and the firing team honor Spc. Wubshet Yilma with a volley during a memorial service Thursday at Landstuhl chapel.
Shells fly as Sgt. Islandia McIntyre and the firing team honor Spc. Wubshet Yilma with a volley during a memorial service Thursday at Landstuhl chapel. (Ben Bloker / S&S)
Shells fly as Sgt. Islandia McIntyre and the firing team honor Spc. Wubshet Yilma with a volley during a memorial service Thursday at Landstuhl chapel.
Shells fly as Sgt. Islandia McIntyre and the firing team honor Spc. Wubshet Yilma with a volley during a memorial service Thursday at Landstuhl chapel. (Ben Bloker / S&S)
Sgt. Mary Byrne, left, and Spc. Mariam Dawood, right, comfort Spc. Marina Martinez at a memorial service Thursday honoring Spc. Wubshet Yilma.
Sgt. Mary Byrne, left, and Spc. Mariam Dawood, right, comfort Spc. Marina Martinez at a memorial service Thursday honoring Spc. Wubshet Yilma. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

LANDSTUHL, Germany — “God grant you strength and a brave heart, my brother.”

Army Staff Sgt. Franklyn Harper uttered the Ethiopian saying as a final tribute to Spc. Wubshet Yilma on Thursday morning at Landstuhl Community Chapel.

Yilma, a 22-year-old native of Ethiopia, died Saturday from injuries received earlier that day while riding in a car that hit a wall on Autobahn 62 near Baumholder.

It was standing room only in the chapel as hundreds of soldiers, airmen, friends and others attended the roughly hourlong memorial ceremony.

Yilma enlisted in the Army on Sept. 2, 2004, and his first assignment was at Landstuhl, where he was in charge of all temporary duty travel vouchers.

Those who spoke of Yilma said he was always able to make you smile. Sgt. Mary Byrne spoke of how Yilma used to cheer up people.

“He would then go play a song on his computer, get up and do a Michael Jackson or a George Jefferson impression,” she said. “You couldn’t help but laugh, and it was that quick that you forgot about what was bothering you.”

But the young soldier also had a deeper side.

Master Sgt. James Mosher, then Yilma’s first sergeant, used to ask Yilma why he joined the Army. At first, Yilma didn’t have a specific answer. Then Mosher had Yilma to his house for Christmas dinner where he saw Mosher’s son playing.

“One of the things that Yilma did say that night was, ‘First Sergeant, I realized why I joined. I joined so that these children don’t have to.’ ”

Yilma was like a brother to Spc. Mariam Dawood, and she addressed the mourners Thursday as if she were speaking to Yilma. When the two were in basic training on the last ruck march and Dawood wanted to give up, Yilma helped her make it.

“You took my weapon,” Dawood said. “You made me walk in front of you. When I started slowing down, you put the butt of the weapon in my back and literally pushed me up that hill.

“Thank you, Yilma. I don’t think I could have made it without you.”

Yilma was a passenger in the front seat of a 1989 BMW when it struck a wall on Saturday. Two other soldiers — the 22-year-old driver and the 24-year-old rear-seat passenger — were treated at a German hospital and later released. The surviving soldiers are assigned to Landstuhl.

The crash is being investigated.

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