The song “How Great Is Our God” rang out of Lifeway Fellowship praise team’s voices as over 500 people filled the sanctuary for the funeral of retired Command Sgt. Maj. Elijah King Jr., a longtime advocate for veterans and soldiers in the Killeen area.
“We are here to celebrate Elijah’s 64 years of life. We are here not because Elijah died, but because he lived,” said the Rev. Jimmy Towers, pastor of Lifeway Fellowship in Killeen.
The service was standing-room only as hundreds of family, friends active-duty and retired service members came to pay their respects.
King died March 12.
Retired Gen. James Thurman, who served as King’s commander from 2004 to 2007, gave the eulogy.
“Elijah King was a great soldier, a man of true faith, with a tremendous love of God,” said Thurman, who lives in the Salado area.
In the eulogy, the former four-star general quoted other military leaders who were impacted by King’s service.
Current Fort Hood garrison commander Col. Todd Fox was quoted by Thurman saying: “King was my go-to man for anything I needed. I relied on his insight to rally our troops.”
Thurman ended the eulogy saying everyone who knew King loved him, and said people should strive to serve like King did during his life.
Thurman said King was one of a kind, a man who loved God and would be proud of all the lives he impacted.
A burial at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery followed the funeral service.
During the burial, hundreds gathered as taps was played, then the flag was folded and presented to King’s wife, Debbie Nash-King.
After the burial service, those close to King spoke of their memories of him as he touched the lives of so many.
“Sgt. Maj. King was a phenomenal leader who cared about his soldiers,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Roger Heinze, the 1st Cavalry Division Home Station command sergeant major. “He put their needs above his own. He was a selfless server who loved helping others. A great American, and an even better soldier.”
Joann Courtland, director of Operation Stand Down of Central Texas, said King was a good mentor.
“It didn’t matter how big or how small an issue was for veterans, he wanted to try to find a way to fix it,” she said. “He supported every organization he could. As long as you supported veterans, he was right there.”