Today, I had the honor of escorting Pfc. Michael Demarsico, U.S. Army, home from Westover AFB, where he was flown from Dover AFB after being killed in action in Afghanistan on Aug. 16.
For those who turned out to welcome Michael back home along the route from Westover to the funeral home, I say thank you. It was an amazing tribute to such an amazing young man. You cannot understand the feeling of driving up to lone persons, small groups or thousands holding flags and signs in support of Michael and his family.
Some of you may have been only to see a little portion of the procession, but here are some things that will stay with me forever:
• The ceremony at Westover AFB when they moved Michael from the plane to the hearse. Shear, utter chills in 80 degree weather as the honor guard performed perfectly.
• A USO volunteer named John, whose son is a Marine Corps pilot, at the Westover reception crying because he could not do enough for the Demarsico's.
• The Chicopee Police Dept stopping traffic at every intersection as we drove to the Mass Pike. Thank you to Chad Levesque, former NAPD now CPD for coordinating and being with us.
How did this woman in the middle
of Charlemont know
when we were coming?
• The MSP trooper who stopped, blocked traffic, opened traffic, and tolls booths for us.
• The fire, police and EMS at every overpass along Route 91 who saluted and had flags displayed. The troopers working details who got out their cruisers and saluted as we passed.
• The lone women holding a flag, crying, saying thank you to us as she stood on the edge of the median at the Greenfield rotary just as we got off Route 91. I thought you are thanking us? No ma'am THANK YOU!
• As we drove around the rotary the huge, more than 1,000 person reception in Greenfield. Greenfield??? Oh my God what will North Adams be like? People lined three and four deep along the road, both sides, from Friendly's all the way past Home Depot. Greenfield fire, police; DEM Fire services, Montague, Franklin County sheriffs, too many to read, I can't keep up reading the little kids signs and the names on the emergency vehicles. Flags, flags, flags.
• Up to Shelburne and a sign on a store reads Our Hero Michael Demarsico. As we arrive in Shelburne we are greeted by police, fire and ems and then MSP on both sides of the road standing out of their cruisers saluting.
• An approximately 90-year-old man, dressed in what looked like a WWII Marine Corps era uniform, who stood
up slowly and obviously painfully, but saluted and held a flag as we passed.
• As we entered Charlemont the bridge crew who hung a flag from their crane over the road and then stood and took their hard hats off and placed them over their heart.
• A woman in her 70s who sprinted down her 200-foot driveway holding flag. She must have been standing in her window waiting for hours for us to pass. How did this woman in the middle of Charlemont know when we were coming?
• Throughout our drive over Route 2 cars travelling in the opposite direction pulled over stopped, got out their cars and saluted or placed their hands over their heart. N.Y., N.J., N.H., Wisc., how did they know? They were driving at 50 mph screech to a halt, and jump out to salute someone they don't know. When we stopped at Brown's Garage to unfurl the flags for the Patriot Guard, there were cars backed up for miles behind us. But not one passed the procession they all waited for 10 minutes…. RESPECT.
• As we got into Florida, more flags, flags over the road, the school children. The Hairpin Turn, Clarksburg police, fire, selectman.
• Then one that really showed to me how much MCLA is part of our community. Their sports teams lined the roadside holding hands.
• As we entered into North Adams I expected nothing less than the incredible turnout that this city would show to a hero ... a soldier ... a son. It was truly overwhelming from our perspective ... if you were there you were only able to see a portion ... "Proud to be an American" playing ... too many faces to focus and recognize, a blur.
For a cynical person like me seeing often only the bad things. Today, North Adams made me proud to call you my home. You saluted a hero ... in a way that will bring tears to my eyes every time I think about it.
LeClair posted this on Facebook on Wednesday, Aug. 28. It is republished here with his permission.