KILLEEN — Family, friends and military comrades gathered Jan. 30 to mourn the loss of Fort Hood Staff Sgt. Kelton Sphaler during a funeral service at Chisholm’s Family Funeral Home Chapel in Killeen.
A sea of service members in dress uniforms paying respect to Sphaler could be seen throughout the funeral home.
Ed Sheeran’s song, “Perfect,” could be heard as the solemn crowd wiped away their tears.
“Thank you for coming out here this evening to honor my son,” Sherry Sphaler said of her son Kelton during the service. “I will talk with you all for a little bit about the boy I got to raise.”
Sherry shared a story about Kelton, who was known for his desire to serve others, caring for a WWII veteran who suffered from dementia.
“When he was 13 years old, he spent the summer caring for the veteran,” she said. “The veteran remembered Kelton for his kindness — Kelton always showed a deep love for the Lord.”
Kelton asked the Lord to come into his heart at the age of 5.
Sherry said she and Kelton got on their knees on the floor and he asked the Lord to come into his heart and to be his savior.
“I know where he is (now) and I will see him again,” Sherry said.
Kelton, 25, was involved in a boating accident Jan. 21 at Belton Lake.
His body was found Jan. 22 near Sparta Valley Park.
“I do not know everything, but I do know God has a plan,” said Sphaler’s brother, Army Spc. Aulbre Calvin Sphaler during the eulogy. “I trust God needed him more than I needed a brother, more than my parents needed a son, more than Shalee needed a husband and more than Scarlett needed a dad.”
Aulbre, who was decorated in his Army dress uniform as he addressed the crowd, said Kelton inspired him to join the military.
“I looked up to him, but I probably did not tell him as much as I should have,” Aulbre said of Kelton. “My brother loved me and taught me how to be a better person. He showed me what love was and how to love.“
Aulbre said Kelton also taught him how to be tough.
Once, Kelton climbed up a 20-foot tree and was swinging from a limb while singing, “I Believe I can Fly.” He fell from that tree — after he fell, he got up and yelled, “I’m alive!”
“I watched him go through certain situations in life where he would stand tall while most people would crumble,” Aulbre said. “He told me to be strong because he would be in a place one day where sadness doesn’t exist.”
Kelton, who was with Fort Hood’s 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, was known for being an outstanding soldier, leader and friend.
“I met Kelton when I was in the Army — you know , you meet that one person you click with and he becomes your best friend,” said Army veteran Arik Stockinger, who met Kelton in 2014 while they were training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. “There was nothing too big or too small — he was always hard charging.”
Kelton’s father, Gary Calvin Sphaler, said Kelton lived by three principles: God, family and trust, which Kelton had tattooed on his arm.
“Kelton loved God and I know he loved his family,” Gary said.
Kelton’s father, who originally was not going to speak during the service, thanked Kelton’s wife, Shalee for her love and support to Kelton.
“Kelton is up there fishing with my papa now,” Aulbre said. “They are catching all the fish.
Kelton was with two other men when the incident occurred. One of the men is still missing.
Crystal Fields and her cadaver dog, Riegel, assisted Jan. 28 and 29 at the family’s request in the search for 25-year-old Scott Weinhold — the fisherman missing more than a week later after a lake outing turned into a tragedy.
The search Jan. 29 centered near the Arrowhead Point boat ramp and the Westcliff Park waterfall. Earlier in the day, a helicopter was at Temple Lake Park.
Riegel scented something near the waterfall and it was checked out by a boat with high-powered sonar technology. However, nothing was located in that area, Fields said.
The third man was able to swim to shore, where he was able to light a fire and was found at 12:30 a.m. Jan. 22.
Sphaler is survived by his wife, Shalee; daughter Scarlett; mother, Sherry Sphaler; father, Gary Calvin Sphaler; and brother, Spc. Aulbre Calvin Sphaler.
Sphaler’s awards and decorations include a Meritorious Service Medal, four Army Achievement Medals, one Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Air Assault Badge, Driver and Mechanic Badge and Marine Qualification Badge Expert Rifle.