Lillie Boyd of Kingstree was overcome with grief on Memorial Day as she hugged the flag-draped coffin of her nephew, Army Pvt. Cheziray Lashawn Pressley of North Charleston.
He was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan two weeks ago.
She wailed in sadness while resting her head on the casket during the service at the Charleston Area Convention Center. Friends and family supported Boyd as they helped her into a chair. They fanned her with programs for Pressley's memorial service.
After she regained her composure, she described her feelings.
"Just an empty void in my life right now," she said.
Her grief was tempered with happy memories of the fun-loving boy everyone knew as "Chezzy."
Pressley touched a lot of people in his 21 years.
"He always had a smile on his face," said Lillie Wallace, 18, of Kingstree.
Christopher Boyd, 23, of Kingstree, said he and Pressley were like brothers. Boyd recalled playing backyard football with Pressley, who kept him laughing. Even as a child, Pressley talked about joining the military.
"It didn't seem real to me," he said of Pressley's death. "Everything happens for a reason. You can't question God. I just hurt that it happened to him," Boyd said.
Pressley had been in Afghanistan for just a few days when he and three other soldiers were killed by an explosion May 16 in Zabul province as a bomb tore into their vehicle. All four were assigned to the Brigade Troops Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
In recognition of Pressley's service, Maj. Gen. Alan Lynn on Monday awarded him the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and NATO Medal, among other honors. Pressley was also promoted to private first class before a crowd of about 600 people at the memorial ceremony.
"Your loss is our loss, too. He was a brother, a fellow soldier," Lynn said.
Pressley was absolutely fearless and looked true evil in the eye. He was always ready for combat, Lynn said.
"Cheziray Lashawn Pressley is an American hero. Because of sacrifices like his, we live in the greatest nation in the world," Lynn said.
Spoken tributes, prayer and Scripture reading were part of the memorial service that featured rousing Gospel versions of favorites such as "Amazing Grace."
Pressley was the second of four sons born to Raymond and Jirlie Pressley. He attended high school in Abbeville. The family moved to Charleston in 2007. He graduated from Fort Dorchester High School in 2008, and studied for two years at Strayer University before joining the Army. He was married in December.
He is among the more than 1,200 U.S. troops and civilians killed in action in Afghanistan since the war began there a decade ago. Most of the fatalities in recent years are attributed to improvised explosive devices.
Survivors include his wife, Dewn Grant Pressley, and their step-daughter, Leila; three brothers, James Edward Pressley, 23; Azariah Jemichael Pressley, 15; and King Josiah Pressley, 11.
Pressley was buried at Sunset Memorial Gardens on Ashley Phosphate Road.
Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711.