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Hundreds mourn sergeant for his compassion, dedication

Sergeant William J. Callahan died in Iraq. Sergeant William J. Callahan died in Iraq.

EASTON -- Hundreds of family, friends, and fellow Marines remembered Sergeant William J. Callahan yesterday for his compassion, sense of humor, and heroism.

With American flags lining town streets and a bagpipe playing "Amazing Grace" outside, many people were bused in from a satellite parking lot to attend the wake at Copeland-MacKinnon Funeral Home .

"He was a person who cared about everyone and everything," Sandi Gould of Middleborough, a family friend, said outside the funeral home after she and her husband paid their respects. "He was a Marine through and through."

Callahan, who joined the Marines in 2002 and defused explosive devices while in Iraq, was killed April 27 in Anbar Province, Iraq. Details of his death have not been disclosed by his family or the Pentagon. Callahan, 28, was assigned to the Eighth Engineer Support Battalion, Second Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

He received a citation for courage under fire when he braved insurgent gunfire to help colleagues wounded by an improvised explosive device on Nov. 1, 2005, in Anbar Province.

While in Iraq, family friends said, Callahan was a devout Catholic who set up a kind of informal ministry so that other Marines had someone to talk to about whatever might be bothering them. Callahan, who was on his second tour of duty in Iraq, also bought bulletproof vests for Marines in his unit, friends said.

"He's the guy you would look at when you were the most miserable and he would cause you to crack up," Sergeant Rory Thornton , who served with Callahan in South America and Japan, said outside the funeral home. "He was full of jokes."

Added Sergeant Matt Nelson , who also served with Callahan in South America and Japan: "He was always smiling. He was an outstanding Marine."

About a month ago, Callahan's wife, Amy, gave birth to their son, Danny. Callahan grew up in Hanson, where he played basketball at Whitman-Hanson Regional High School .

"He had a love for everyone," Bob Sullivan, an uncle, said outside the funeral home. "He did whatever he could for his fellow Marines. He really believed in his job and saved many lives."

A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. tomorrow in Immaculate Conception Church in Easton. Burial with full military honors will be Thursday in Virginia at Arlington National Cemetery.