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'He is our hero'
Family, friends attend funeral of local soldier killed in Afghanistan

LAWRENCEVILLE - About 100 people, all carrying American flags, stood outside a funeral home Saturday as the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Donald T. Tabb gathered inside for the soldier's final farewell.

Those who spoke at Tabb's funeral described him as a leader who was always eager to share his knowledge and skills with his colleagues.

Brigadier Gen. David Quantock said Tabb, 29, was a brave man who saved the lives of every member of his team several times by finding and disabling improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. The working dog handler always gave his 2-year-old black Lab, Bo, credit, Quantock said.

Tabb, a member of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, was killed Feb. 5 in Afghanistan when an IED detonated near his vehicle. It was his third military deployment. He was serving with the 6th Military Police Detachment, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment.

"Although his life was cut short, he lived a life full," Quantock said. "He must have understood the importance of the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, because he continued to serve in some of the roughest climates known to man."

Quantock presented Tabb's mother, Gloria Jean Smith of Lawrenceville, with three awards in honor of her son: the Bronze Star for bravery, the Purple Heart for wounds sustained in combat and the Meritorious Medal of Service for outstanding performance of duty.

The family did not make a statement during the funeral, which was called "a home going service." They did include a note in the service's program.

"We've all been blessed to have shared the time and space with Donald that we had, to have been a part of his life," the program states. "To have known him as a devoted son, and as a loyal and generous brother and nephew.

"There was an essential goodness to him and everything he did. He loved his profession, but he loved his family more and always attended to those around him. Donald had a beautiful spirit and enduring memory that will forever remain in our hearts. He is our hero."

Those gathered outside also said Tabb was a hero. The Patriot Guard Riders, a group of motorcyclists, came to the service to honor Tabb and show their respect to his family.

"They volunteered to go protect our freedoms," said Johnny Bradford, the assistant state captain of the Patriot Guard. "We at least need to show them the honor and respect they deserve."

Tabb's death marks the 15th Gwinnett soldier to die in recent Middle Eastern conflicts, said Carolyn Buice, co-founder of the Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial.

The Norcross resident was buried in the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton.