ALDEN, N.Y. (AP) -- A soldier killed in Afghanistan shied away from attention so much that even his family didn't know till after he died that he'd been awarded a Bronze Star for saving someone during a firefight this year, his sister told mourners who overflowed a western New York church for his funeral Monday.
As the nation observed Veterans Day, Sgt. Brett Gornewicz, 27, was described as a soldier proud to serve his country after being deeply affected by the Sept. 11 attacks.
Gornewicz, a U.S. Army reservist, was killed in a roadside bomb attack along with fellow upstate New York combat engineers Staff Sgt. Dain Venne, 29, of Port Henry and 22-year-old Spc. Ryan Jayne of Campbell while conducting route-clearing duties in Paktiya province on Nov. 3.
Gornewicz was "a selfless person who always put others' needs in front of his," his sister, Cassandra Cranston, said inside rural St. John's Roman Catholic Church in Alden, east of Buffalo. She said he spoke little about the work he was doing in Afghanistan.
Mourners filled the pews, stood along the walls and spilled out onto the front steps.
The reservist's godmother said the death was particularly difficult because Gornewicz, who had served in Iraq from 2007 to 2008, was expected to return home in two months. But she said saying goodbye on Veterans Day was special.
"The family is very blessed," Linda Jagusiak said, "to feel we have a veteran amongst us in our
Gornewicz, Venne and Jayne were assigned to the 444th Engineer Company, headquartered in Oswego.
Venne's funeral is Tuesday in Port Henry. Jayne's funeral will be Wednesday at his alma mater, Corning East High School.