Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Soldier was hero and friend

Mourners remember Bellevue's Justin Scott

By Karen Gutierrez
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BELLEVUE - He was a mischievous buddy with an exuberant, distinctive laugh. He could be a smart aleck sometimes, but he was lovable. His grandparents called him "Fustenburger."

On Monday, Sgt. Justin A. Scott also was remembered as a hero.

"He'll never be forgotten," said his best friend, Mike Ollberding, during an emotional memorial service attended by about 300 people at Bellevue High School. "He meant a lot to a lot of people. I just know he's in good hands right now."

Scott, 22, was among seven U.S. soldiers killed Jan. 29 in an explosion at a weapons cache in Ghazni, Afghanistan. Authorities are investigating whether the cache was booby-trapped.

During Monday's service, Chief Warrant Officer Nancy Christiano of the Kentucky Army National Guard presented Scott's parents, Karen S. Humphrey of Bromley and William E. Scott Jr. of Bellevue, with the Bronze Star. Their son earned it for the critical role he played in combat operations in Afghanistan, Christiano said.

Scott graduated from Bellevue High School in 2000 and joined the Army soon after, assigned to the 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, N.Y. This summer, he planned to marry his fiancee, Kristen Menkhaus of Villa Hills, who leaned tearfully on friends Monday.

"All Justin talked about was his future, his fiancee, his family and friends," said one buddy, Brad Oberding, 22. "I looked up to him and the pride he had in his life."

Scott played football and baseball at Bellevue. Ten of his closest friends clung to each other and cried as they shared memories with the crowd.

Russell Madden, 22, drew appreciative laughter as he recalled Scott's personality.

"If you needed advice, he was there, just like Dr. Phil. It may not have been the right advice, but it was advice," Madden said.

Another friend, Kevin Singleton, 23, warmed the mourners with an imitation of Scott's zany laugh.

"Sgt. Justin Scott, where do I begin?" Singleton said. "Justin could make any situation better. For example, he would walk up, slap you on the rear end and say, 'Good game!'"

When Scott first moved to Bellevue as a boy, he bragged about being from Covington, all of 15 minutes away. But Bellevue adopted him anyway, and he became as good as native, his friends said.

"He was a B-town boy," Madden told the crowd.

After prayers, songs and eulogies, fellow soldiers carried Scott's flag-covered casket out of the gym. He was buried at Maple Grove Cemetery in Germantown, Ohio, where his grandparents live.

"This is our hero, our fallen soldier," Singleton said. "We love you, man."

Memorial donations can be made to the Sgt. Justin A. Scott Memorial Youth Fund, Fifth Third Bank, 240 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue, Ky., 41073.


E-mail kgutierrez@enquirer.com

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