Beliefnet News

A large flag is raised in front of First Assembly (Photo by Laura Welch)

Nestled in the rural Ozarks of northwestern Arkansas, little Green Forest, population 2,717, bade farewell Tuesday to a native son, U.S. Navy SEAL Tommy Ratzlaff.

A vivid rainbow painted the sky in early morning, as a local tree-trimming service raised an enormous flag in front of the First Assembly of God where services were scheduled.

Ratzlaff was killed along with 38 others in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Saturday.

Local banker Byron Russ remembers him as a remarkable kid who always put everything into whatever he tried. Russ served with Ratzlaff’s mother, Mrs. Nancy Ratzlaff, on the local school board where she was president. 

Tuesday rainbow over Green Forest's Tiger Stadium where Ratzlaff played (Photo by Chandra Anderson)

Relatives recalled how it was Ratzlaff’s childhood dream to serve his country.  Tommy joined the Navy in 1995 out of high school.

“Tommy was the epitome of what a soldier should be,” remembered local florist and former chamber of commerce president Tammy Goins, whose son Michael was killed a few years ago in action in Iraq.

On Facebook, she called Tommy “selfless, brave, and determined to do his best to serve his country and to protect his family and all he loved. We are very proud of him back home in his hometown.

“We pray for God to wrap His arms around his family and give them comfort.”

Ratzlaff died on a rescue mission — which would have been one of his last — at age 34, he was a senior petty officer and had decided to retire from the SEALs and return home.

The Ratzlaff family sent a message that Tommy would appreciate the well-wishes his family has received but added, “Tommy would want the focus of his sacrifice to be on the cause, not on the sacrifice itself.”

He leaves behind a wife, two sons, ages 11 and 6, and a child on the way — a baby girl due in November. He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Here is CNN’s look at Ratzlaff.

Here is what nearby Springfield, Mo.’s TV station KY3 reported:

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