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US funeral for Uday at home

Chandigarh, Dec. 5: The US army will give Uday Singh a military funeral here sometime next week.

The first Indian to die in President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, Uday’s body will be brought to the country by a contingent led by a senior official of the US army. This is the first time that a foreign army will provide a military funeral to its soldier in India. The young immigrant was killed in an ambush in Habbaniyah, Iraq, on December 1.

“It would normally take between a week to 10 days for the mortal remains to arrive here,” said Arti Singh, media adviser in the US embassy. Singh, with US army casualty assistance officer Steven Stoiber, will remain with Uday’s family till the cremation, after which the ashes will be taken for burial to Arlington cemetery near Washington DC.

“The body will be embalmed after an autopsy, wrapped in the Class A uniform of the US army and brought here with a US army ‘Honour Guard’ team led by an officer of the rank of brigadier general,” Stoiber said. The autopsy will be conducted in Dover, Maryland.

This morning, at a memorial service at St Stephen’s School where Uday was a student, Stoiber paid him rich tribute. “His sacrifice is a great example not only to the people of the United States but also to India. It is a great loss to both nations,” he said. School principal Harold Carver said though Uday had died fighting for a foreign country, the school would always remember him.

Uday’s home was crowded with grieving friends and relatives for the second day today. His 87-year-old grandmother, Anoop, to whom he had written last month describing the conditions on the battlefield, remained inconsolable. “He has brought honour to a military family,” she sobbed.

The family has a tradition of serving in the armed forces. But Uday is the first to die on the battlefield, albeit for the US.

The US government is expected to hike the compensation normally provided to a dead soldier’s family. Sources in the family said the next of kin are given a gratuity of $12,000, free housing or housing allowance and a $6,900 reimbursement towards expenses incurred during the last rites. The family is also handed the soldier’s unpaid salary and allowance.

Uday’s family plans to give the compensation money to charity. His mother Manjeet said: “Uday always gave, never took anything.”

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