SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

September 29, 2006

Full military funeral for soldier killed in Iraq

SWAMPSCOTT - Thousands came to this tiny seaside town yesterday to bury and to honor 20-year-old Army Spc. Jared Raymond, killed in Iraq last week.

Raymond's fellow servicemen, his friends and neighbors - and some who had only heard about him - stood in silence outside of St. John the Evangelist Church, sometimes wiping away tears, sometimes waving American flags, watching a full military funeral. In the street, spit and polish formations included representatives from the Army, National Guard and Army Reserve, the Marine Corps League and other veterans' groups, as well as white-gloved police officers and firefighters from all over the North Shore.

It was a day oddly unsuited for a funeral, a glorious, sunny day, with the smell of sand and salt water in the air, like a false promise of summer.

Kaitlyn Thomas, Raymond's Swampscott High classmate, served free coffees outside the Red Rock Bistro as the words of the service were broadcast on speakers outside of the church. "Our brother Jared died with Christ," the priest said.

"It's a bit of a reality check for everyone," Thomas said as he fought tears. "It's finally hitting close to home. People are realizing the effect of the war. It's very sad."

Grim-faced Brian Conrad was a few years ahead of Raymond in school. "I'm here to support Jared," he said. Raymond's death hit hard. "It was a shock." Nor is it forgotten that several Swampscott High graduates are still serving.

"How can you not come?" asked Ophelia Gaskin, a native of Barbados now a U.S. citizen and Lynn resident. "I don't know the young man, but I had to come. What I read in the paper really hurts. I don't have anybody in the service." She waved a small American flag. "But this feels right."

All sorts of people looked on, all ages and races, seniors, Vietnam veterans and students. Many wore team uniforms. Here and there a grade-schooler wore Army fatigues and another clutched his G. I. Joe.

Lea Jacobson brought her three kids, Andrew, Daniel and Benny. "I wanted to show them the procession. To show them someone who sacrificed his life for his country."

Bagpipers played "Going Home," "America the Beautiful" and the "Minstrel Boy." An honor guard of Army sergeants carried their fallen comrade from the church. As they lifted the casket high onto the caisson - with help from two state police troopers in white gloves - all that could be heard was sniffling in the crowd.

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