Friends, Family Remember Local Soldier

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Knoxville (WVLT) - In Lake City, family and friends saying goodbye as well as thank you to fallen soldier, First Sgt. James David Connell.

Volunteer TVs Whitney Daniel was at the memorial service for the fallen soldier. She takes a look at Sgt. Connell's love for life, for his family and for America.

Sgt. Connell is known throughout Lake City as a friend and a dad. He's known as "Tiger" or "Sarge," and now, to so many, he's treasured as a hero.

"We believe in the Bible and the Bible says "If you sow good seed, you reap good seed," uncle Charles Connell said.

Living an eternal life with his Commander.

"We're a really, really close family and our hearts are really sad," Connell said.

As a community grieves with the Connell family, the Patriot Guard Riders surround them all with their patriotism.

"We're showing the family that we love them, we don't know them, but we love them," said Deb McKay from the Patriot Guard Riders.

Three weeks ago, Sgt. James Connell came home on leave, his Uncle Charles says that trip brought many lasting memories.

"When we was sitting in the living room, he walked in there and he gave me his uniform that he wore home, and I will always cherish it," Connell said.

In fact, on that trip home, Sgt. Connell did a lot of things that his family and his four kids won't soon forget.

"He spent all his time with his kids, one on one, and he took them to Dollywood and rode all the rides with them and really lived it up," Connell said.

Looking back, his family says James was making each moment count, because he somehow knew.

"He had a feeling he wasn't going to be coming back. He told his brother, Jeff, he said, 'Look after my kids, I probably won't be coming back,'" Connell said.

A week later, James died when the military vehicle we was traveling in was bombed. Now, a sea of stars and stripes leading to God's house tells a community of one brave soldier's sacrifice.

"One of his sons asked him, 'Dad, why do you do this?' and he says, 'Son, I do this so no one else will have to,'" Connell said.

Connell will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery May 15th with full military honors.

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