He was the enthusiastic soldier who wanted the toughest assignments. Master Sgt. Mark Allen would never back down from a challenge and younger soldiers idolized him, his comrades said.
"There are no words other than strength and determination to describe Master Sgt. Allen," Major General Thomas Carden, of the Georgia Department of Defense, said Friday at First Baptist Church of Snellville. "He loved soldiers and his enthusiasm was infectious."
But he was also the loudest one. Allen loved to laugh, sing karaoke and watch Vince Vaughn movies. If he was awake, Allen was ready to go, according to First Sgt. Ricky Todd, who served with Allen.
There were tears as hundreds gathered for the funeral for the 46-year-old Allen, who died on Saturday more than 10 years after being critically injured in Afghanistan. But there were also smiles and laughs as speakers shared memories of the man hailed as a hero and fighter till the end.
In addition to family and friends, many attending the funeral were military members or police officers. Veterans holding U.S. flags lined the sidewalk of the church as Allen's casket was moved inside for the service.
Photos shown during the service illustrated Allen's life: A little boy holding a fishing pole beamed proudly in one picture. Others showed Allen on his wedding day and later holding his newborn daughter.
Allen was a leader among soldiers, often helping keep his comrades safe during the toughest conditions, Todd said. But it was Allen who was critically injured in July 2009, sending a "gut punch" to others who knew him.
Medics' efforts likely saved his life, Todd said. Back in the U.S., the prognosis was bleak according to some doctors and nurses, Carden said. One nurse told Carden it was unlikely Allen would survive a month past one of his first surgeries.
"She didn't know Master Sgt. Allen," Carden said. "She didn't know Shannon Allen."
Allen was resilient. He could no longer walk or speak, but he survived extensive surgeries and life in hospitals before he was finally able to return several years ago to his family's Loganville home.
At home, Allen required constant care, and his family was never far from his side. His wife, Shannon made her job look easy, serving as a caregiver for both Allen and their children, a longtime friend Ivonne Thompson said Friday. Thompson met the Allen family when her own husband was recovering from combat injuries.
Allen couldn't talk, Thompson said. But he could still communicate, and looking at his wife and two children resulted in ear-to-ear grins. And Allen's laugh was contagious, Thompson said. His belly laughs would shake his wheelchair or bed.
"Mark will never be forgotten," Thompson said.
In addition to his wife, Shannon, and two children, Allen is survived by a grandson and numerous other relatives. A Go Fund Me campaign has been launched to assist the family with expenses.
Following his funeral, police officers from several agencies escorted Allen to the Corinth Memorial Gardens in Loganville for burial. Allen was to buried near the marker of a fellow soldier and friend killed in combat.
In lieu of flowers the family of Master Sgt. Mark Allen requests donations be made to The Independence Fund, Folds Of Honor or the Semper Fi Fund in his name.
This article is written by Alexis Stevens from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.