Hero paratrooper mourned, remembered in Plymouth

By Brian R. Ballou
Globe Staff / November 21, 2009

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PLYMOUTH - Inside the modest, sparsely decorated Second Church of Plymouth, roughly the size of a barn, mourners displayed a range of emotions as they listened to Benjamin W. Sherman’s family and pastor tell stories about his childhood.

There was raucous laughter after the Rev. Mark Mendes read the inscription off a pool cue that Sherman gave him before his deployment to Afghanistan. It read, “You lost at pool against me! Ben Sherman.’’ Mendes retold the story of how Sherman first challenged him at age 8 and of how he took no mercy on the “snotty-nosed’’ kid.

And then the fallen soldier’s pregnant wife, Patricia Sherman, stood in front of the church. As she used a handkerchief to dab at the tears flowing down her cheeks, she said: “If Ben was here right now, he’d be saying wipe those tears from your cheeks and have a drink for him. I want to thank Denise and Bill for bringing your only son into the world.’’

She recalled her husband as a man who had an affinity for tattoos and a man who had a heart of gold.

Earlier this month, according to US Army officials, Sherman, a 21-year-old paratrooper based in Fort Bragg, N.C., attempted to save another soldier who had been swept away in a river in Afghanistan. After about a week, Sherman’s body was recovered on Nov. 10. The other soldier has not yet been found.

Under a constant rain, Sherman’s flag-draped coffin traveled to the church yesterday through the streets of Plymouth in a white horse-drawn carriage. Because the pews and the horseshoe shaped balcony could accommodate only about 300 people, the service was delayed about 30 minutes as organizers made arrangements to seat the family.

At 11:30 a.m., the service began, with photos of Sherman projected onto a large screen behind the pulpit. Pictures flashed of Sherman in his Little League and football uniforms, of him fishing, in his fatigues, and of him kissing his wife, while the song ‘I’m an American Soldier’ played over speakers.

Denise Sherman said her son was fearless, picking up a lobster at the age of 2 and mastering BMX bikes despite a nasty spill. “God has taken my precious child from me and left me one to come,’’ she said, referring to her yet-to-be-born granddaughter.

She talked about how she and her son talked on the phone, telling each other, “Love you lots, miss you much,’’ at the beginning of their conversations, because calls were often dropped and they wanted to say the most important thing at the outset of their conversations.

Meredith Sherman, the soldier’s sister, also spoke about a conversation she had with her brother on the telephone. “He said, ‘Meredith, I want to tell you something: Tell everybody I love them, because I don’t know if I’ll get that chance again.’ ’’

Sherman graduated from Plymouth South High School three years ago. Before receiving his diploma, he expressed a desire to become a soldier, and he signed up before graduation. Before the next summer ended, he was at boot camp.

Sherman was posthumously promoted to sergeant and was awarded the Bronze Star and two other medals. The service lasted about 90 minutes, and then the coffin was carried to Manomet Cemetery, about 400 feet behind the church, for burial.