That memory related by the Rev. Charles Wible drew soft laughter from hundreds gathered yesterday for the sailor's funeral Mass at his home parish in Abingdon. The man who could fix almost anything died Sept. 16 in Iraq's Al Anbar province, while trying to dismantle a bomb. He was 32.
"It is not age that gives us honor but the quality of our lives," Father Wible, pastor of St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Church, said. "David's job was to risk his own life, so that others might be kept safe."
The Bel Air High School and Harford Community College graduate enlisted in the Navy seven years ago. He worked with computers, did some diving and about two years ago began training for demolition work. Petty Officer Roddy was most recently assigned to the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit in Norfolk, Va., where he resided with his wife, Cristale, and three children. He was deployed to Iraq in June.
Capt. Frank Morneau, commander of the disposal unit in which Petty Officer Roddy served, eulogized him as a warrior and shipmate.
"David's work helped save the lives of 20,000 soldiers, sailors and Marines based in Al Anbar province," Captain Morneau said. "I represent David's other family and there are many more of us not inside the walls of this church. God bless him and his shipmates who are currently in harm's way."
Petty Officer Roddy was awarded the Purple Heart, which was presented to his family yesterday.
Hours before the service, hundreds of motorcyclists, many of them veterans and members of the Patriot Guard, lined Abingdon Road and the driveways to the church, to shield the family from protesters who had threatened a demonstration.
Protesters from Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., never made an appearance. They demonstrated at a soldier's funeral yesterday in London, Ky., where they were met by flag-waving counter-demonstrators.
In Abingdon, supporters of the family stood silently in soft rain for several hours. Many waved flags and carried signs with messages of support.
"Everybody is here today to honor this young man," said Russ Vincent, a Vietnam veteran from Severn. "This country was built on the backs of veterans like him."
Carrying a flag and wilting flowers, Vito DiNatale, 10, stood in the background with his father, also a Vietnam veteran.
"I support our troops," said Vito, a Baltimore resident. "I am going to be a Marine when I grow up."
The church pews were filled with more than 500 mourners, including family, friends and members of the military dressed in the uniforms of every service, but mostly in Navy whites. Dozens of Boy Scouts attended in tribute to the sailor who earned the rank of Eagle Scout by building birdhouses for a nature preserve near his home.
With swords held high, the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, ushered Petty Officer Roddy's family into the church. A Navy officer escorted Cristale Roddy, who clutched the hand of her 10-year-old daughter, Jessica. The girl wore a navy-blue dress with white trim and a sailor's collar. Bob and Carol Roddy, the sailor's parents, walked behind their daughter-in-law, accompanied by their 7-year-old twin grandsons, Matthew and Michael.
During the service, the children and their grandparents brought offerings of bread and wine to the altar. Cristale Roddy left a single red rose before a photograph of her husband. His godparents placed a cross on his remains.
Before leaving the church, Bob Roddy spoke of the family's gratitude, particularly to the Navy, whose members stood as the congregation applauded for several minutes.
"David was proud of the Navy," said Mr. Roddy. "Godspeed to you. If you have to serve over there, may God watch over you and bring you back safely."