Funeral is a moment of patriotism, too
Afghanistan death the second to hit Fall River recently
FALL RIVER — Neighbors lined the sidewalk across from Holy Name Church yesterday, waving little American flags as they squinted against the morning sunlight.
But they were not gathering for a July Fourth celebration, but to honor a fallen soldier.
Across from them, 100 Patriot Guard Riders wearing their signature patch-filled leather vests and holding full-size American flags stood in a straight line on the church lawn. The veterans’ motorcycle club was guarding the funeral of Army Specialist Scott Andrews from potential protesters.
“I never saw so many flags in my life,’’ Mary Tavares, 76, said, watching from across the street. Tavares said she did not know Andrews but had a son in the Air Force. “I know what they are going through,’’ she said.
Andrews, 21, died in Afghanistan on June 21 from an improvised explosive device, making his the second young life the city has lost to the war in Afghanistan in recent months.
Sergeant Robert J. Barrett, 20, a member of the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s 101st Field Artillery Regiment, was killed in Afghanistan this spring. He died in a suicide bombing April 19 in Kabul, where he was training new recruits for the Afghan Army.
Herman Bomback, 58, of Swansea handed out flags a few blocks from the church.
“To see one of your fellow soldiers pass, it’s touching,’’ said Bomback. “It hurts.’’
Standing on the church lawn, Duke Davies, 50, who had driven about an hour from North Kingston, R.I., held a flag with the Patriot Guard Riders. When asked why, he pointed to one of his patches. It had three vertical stars, signifying that he has three children in the service.
“That’s my motivation,’’ he said.
Roy McClymonds had come from Arizona. He was on a 10-day motorcycle ride for veterans, he said, and felt he had to attend.
By the time the funeral Mass started, hundreds had filled the church. Hundreds more lingered outside.
The Rev. Edward Murphy led the service, recounting how Andrews began his military training in 2008. Andrews would have returned home this winter.
Lieutenant General Frank Helmick presented the family with a purple heart and told the congregation that Andrews lived the soldier’s creed every day.
Helmick said Andrews sometimes stayed up all night to do his job as a member of the 618th Engineer Support Company, 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade out of Fort Bragg, N.C. He strove to master his craft.
“How do we make sense of this?’’ he said. “The only thing that makes sense to me is that heaven needed him more than we did. Today, Scott has a different set of wings. Heaven has another paratrooper in the ranks.’’
Standing in St. Patrick Cemetery after the service, Anne Oliver, 58, a hairdresser, said she was impressed by the attendance.
“Old and young, it doesn’t matter,’’ she said. “They have on jeans and T-shirts, but they’re just so proud to be here for support.’’
Next to her, Jim Lopes, 53, a family friend, agreed. “It’s touching, such a young life taken from us,’’ Lopes agreed, his voice breaking. “He hadn’t even started to live yet.’’
Lopes said he hopes the servicemen come home to their families soon. Around him, people were headed back to their cars.
“It takes things like this to see how communities can come together, how countries can come together.’’
Sydney Lupkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.