Valley soldier laid to rest four years after death

FRESNO, Calif.

It was bittersweet for his grandmother who raised 19-year-old Daniel Courneya for much of his childhood.

The sound of roaring engines broke the calm of this Northwest Fresno neighborhood Friday afternoon. The Patriot Guard Riders came to show their support for Marti Petuck and her fallen grandson.

Four years ago, she got the devastating word that Daniel Courneya, the grandson she raised until he was ten had been killed in Iraq. Courneya and several other soldiers were ambushed by insurgents. He was killed instantly; others were kidnapped and later found murdered.

Petuck said, "It's still hard, I have a tremendous void that will never be filled."

Courneya was cremated and his ashes were given to his wife in New York. The couple was young and had only been married six months.

Petuck said, "We agreed that because he did want to be here and he did want to be at home, we agreed that when she was ready to go on with her life, she would bring us his ashes for burial."

Petuck received her grandson's remains last November, and decided to ask the Patriot Guard Riders to honor her hero by carrying him to his final resting place.

Robert Firestine said, "You know usually there's a funeral coach involved so this is our first transport mission. Usually we'll escort the people who are transporting and family."

The riders shared lunch Petuck had made for them, before giving her grandson a ceremonial salute and escort to Washington Colony Cemetery in Easton.

Courneya was buried with several mementos his grandmother had saved. His favorite outfit when he was a toddler, the cap and gown he wore when he graduated from kindergarten and the first and last pair of dress shoes she bought for him when he became a young man.

On a day filled with such sadness and tears, there was one thing Petuck said she was grateful for. That the terrorists responsible for her grandson's death, have been captured and punished.

"They caught those guys that did that ambush," said Petuck. "They went to trial and they were hung. They have been hung, Osama is gone before we ever laid Daniel to rest. That's awesome."

Daniel Courneya was attacked in what was considered the most dangerous region in Iraq at the time, the so-called 'Triangle of Death'. He was buried with full military honors.

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