Funeral arrangements set for Sgt. T.J. Butler; protest, show of support planned

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A soldier from Wilmington will be laid to rest this week, and a controversial church groups say it will be here.

Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas says members will be in the Port City this week to protest Sgt. T.J. Butler’s funeral.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, the spokeswoman for WBC, told WWAY in a phone interview this afternoon that God has focused his wrath on North Carolina.

She says the church has protested hundreds of soldiers’ funerals, and that they all look like patriotic pep rallies. She says members of the church are not worried about offending the soldier’s family.

“They failed them,” Phelps-Roper said. “It was their duty to warn them every day. Just look at the first nine verses of Deuteronomy 6: ‘Every day, in every way, with everything that they do and say they are duty bound to warn their children what the lord their God requires of them.’ They failed miserably, and now they have a child that’s dead and in hell.”

Phelps-Roper says soldiers will keep dying and the church will keep protesting, because America is doomed.

“Hear the word. Read the word,” she said. “Believe God. The destroyer of Sodom is not dead. He’s on the way, and he is raging mad.”

But members of our community are also mad. They’re mad at the thought of someone protesting a military funeral.

Tom Russell with Step up for Soldiers says Wilmington is planning to show its support for Sgt. Butler, his service and sacrifice.

“No matter what happens, what I’m hoping is that we can line the roadways with American flags, with people standing there in silence as a tribute to the family,” Russell said.

Step up for Soldiers is holding a planning meeting for a human chain of support tomorrow from 3 until 6 p.m. at the armory near the airport.

Sgt. Thomas Jefferson “T.J.” Butler, IV, 25, of Leland, was killed in action while serving with the US Army NC National Guard in Khost, Afghanistan.

Sgt. Butler was born June 19, 1987, in Washington, DC, son of Thomas Jefferson Butler, III and Leslie Thornton Butler.

T.J. grew up in Hampstead, graduated from Topsail High School in 2006, and joined the NC National Guard in June 2007. He and his wife, Holly, were married November 29, 2008, and their seven-month-old son, Thomas Jefferson Butler, V, was born March 6, 2012. Sgt. Butler deployed to Afghanistan in August 2012.

In addition to his parents, he is survived by his wife, Holly Gause Butler and their son, Thomas Jefferson Butler, V; two brothers, Adam O’Brien Butler and Michael William Thornton; grandmother, Lavola Coombs Whisenhunt; Holly’s’ parents, Lacy Kent Gause and Cynthia Marjanna Gause; three sisters-in-law, Tammy Weddington and husband, Michael, Jennifer Benjamin and husband, William, and Jessica Willis; and several uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, and nephews.

The family will receive friends from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at Andrews Mortuary Market Street Chapel.

A funeral service will be 11 a.m. Friday at First Baptist Church, 411 Market Street, Wilmington, with Dr. Jim Everette officiating. Interment will follow in Wilmington National Cemetery with full military honors.

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