May 28, 2010

Soldier remembered for hard work, humor, spirit


Story originally published 2008-06-04

SOUTH PORTLAND - More than 250 people gathered at Holy Cross Church this morning for the funeral of U.S. Army Spc. Justin Buxbaum, 23, who died last month in Afghanistan.


Buxbaum, who was killed in a non-combat accident in Kushamond, Afghanistan, was laid to rest with full military honors.


Gov. John Baldacci joined friends and family members at Holy Cross Church for the funeral of Buxbaum, a 2004 graduate of South Portland High School.


Buxbaum was sent to Afghanistan in April after completing two tours in Iraq.


Family members and dignitaries remembered Buxbaum for his commitment to family and country, a love of Elvis that he shared with his grandfather, a concern for children he demonstrated as a father figure to his younger brother, William, and as a participant in the Big Brother program.


"I will be lost without you," his mother, Julie Buxbaum, wrote. "Thank you for letting me have the pleasure of being your mother."


Gen. Bill Libby, head of the Maine National Guard, read a statement delivered by Buxbaum's company commander at a memorial service held May 31 in Afghanistan: "His boldness and candor made him a leader among his peers. Justin Buxbaum was a rare person and an outstanding soldier."


Buxbaum's family learned of his death on Memorial Day.


Julie Buxbaum, told WCSH-TV, Portland, that the accident occurred when her son's platoon returned from a three-day mission and his roommate entered the room after Buxbaum set a gun against the wall.


"The gun had been picked up," she said. "I don't know if it was Justin's or his roommate's. And when they went to put it down it was at an angle and hit the ground hard and discharged and went into my son's lung. They said he was alive for a little while and talking to them and then no more."


Julie Buxbaum said she forgives the young soldier who caused the death and realizes that he must feel devastated.


She quoted her son as saying weeks before his death that conditions were worse than in Iraq and that food, water and other supplies were running low.


"It broke my heart," she said, "because everything he's doing over there he shouldn't have to worry about running out of things."


Flags throughout Maine were lowered to half-staff to coincide with Buxbaum's funeral.


Military dignitaries presented his family the Bronze Star Medal for exceptionally meritorious service and the Good Conduct Medal. Baldacci also presented a Gold Star Medal for honorable service and the Maine flag that flew over the Blaine House to honor Buxbaum.

Read more about this story tomorrow in the Portland Press Herald or online at

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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