Merced soldier laid to rest

Staff Sgt. Frank J. Gasper left behind his wife and family four times to serve his country in Iraq. On Tuesday, he came home for good.

Gasper, 25, was laid to rest at Merced District Cemetery. The soldier was killed May 25 in Najaf, Iraq when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb. He was two weeks into his fourth deployment with the 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group based at Fort Carson, Colo.

Flags in Merced flew at half-staff to honor Gasper; Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement of condolence.

But if he were here today, Frankie Gasper would want people to remember his life with a smile, not tears, say those who knew him.

“This is devastating, but when you think about Frank you smile,” said his 20-year-old cousin Cassie Richards. “Everybody has a good memory of Frank.”