Robert Voakes, Jr. Laid to Rest

Friends, loved ones, veterans, tribal members and others pay their final respects to the soldier from L’Anse killed in Afghanistan nine days ago.

Emotions were running high at Baraga High School.

Several hundred well–wishers showed up to honor and celebrate 21–year–old Robert Voakes, Jr.

A former high school teacher of his remembered that Voakes spent a great deal of time mentoring young people both within the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and the Baraga Area Schools.

Former social studies teacher Jim Bielinski says Voakes’s commitments to the tribe, to younger people and to the military show he was willing to act to make the world a better place.

Voakes’s family received a gold star flag to honor his ultimate sacrifice.

But there were also some lighter moments.

A former basketball coach said although Voakes was fairly quiet, he had a sharp wit and loved to cut loose with a quick zinger.

Bruce Rundman says Voakes once victimized him with one during a shirts-and-skins game during practice.

Rundman was on the skins team, but in reference to his copious chest hair, he says Voakes asked him when he was planning on taking off his sweater vest.

Since his death, Voakes has received the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star from the pentagon.

He’s also been promoted from Private First Class to Specialist First Class.

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