Friend of Amputee: 'He Went Out With a Smile'

Funeral takes place for Iraqi vet killed on coaster

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Jul 14, 2011 6:43 PM CDT

(Newser) – With his iron will to make the most of life without legs, James Hackemer would set off turkey-hunting in an all-terrain wheelchair or toil for hours atop a lawn tractor at the 40-acre family farm in southwestern New York. "He had a thirst for life and wanted to do as much as possible," said a sister of Hackemer, the Iraqi vet who was ejected from the Ride of Steel coaster at Darien Lake theme park last week and killed. His funeral was held today.

"He loved life,” a family friend said. “If there's any video of the accident, I guarantee you he went out with a smile on his face and his hands raised high in the air." Caught in a roadside bombing south of Baghdad in March 2008, Hackemer lost both legs. But friends say he was never negative about it. When an aunt remarked she had shrunk a few inches in old age, Hackemer shot back, "I lost 3 feet in a matter of seconds!" He will be buried at a later date at Arlington.

A file photo of Sgt. James T. Hackemer.   (AP Photo/ Help Our Military Heroes, Marybeth Vandergrift)
Alycia Hackemer, former wife and Kaelynn Hackemer, daughter, arrive for the funeral of Sgt. James Hackemer in Gowanda, N.Y., Thursday, July 14, 2011.   (AP Photo/David Duprey)
Kaelynn Hackemer, held by her grandfather Chuck Bradshaw, on the way to her father's funeral.   (AP Photo/David Duprey)
Pall bearers carry the casket of Sgt. James Hackemer as John Hackemer Jr., father, right, accepts the flag.   (AP Photo/David Duprey)
Pall bearers carry the casket of Sgt. James Hackemer during his funeral in Gowanda, N.Y., Thursday, July 14, 2011.   (AP Photo/David Duprey)
John Hackemer Jr., second right, salutes his son, Sgt. James Hackemer, during his funeral in Gowanda, N.Y., Thursday, July 14, 2011.   (AP Photo/David Duprey)
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