North Adams Native Killed in Afghanistan
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Michael DeMarsico always wanted to be a soldier, and was prepared to be on the front line.
On Thursday, Aug. 16, the 20-year-old Drury High School graduate was in the lead when he was reportedly killed in a roadside bombing in Panjwa'l, Afghanistan.
His parents, Michael and Lisa Babcock DeMarsico of Bracewell Avenue, were informed of his death at about 1 a.m. on Friday by Army officials with the aid of local police.
"Michael was tragically killed in Afghanistan doing what he loved," said his aunt, Laurie Douglas, in an emotional press conference on Friday afternoon. "That's all we know right now."
Mayor Richard Alcombright called it a "devastating day" and ordered the city's flags lowered to half staff.
"We're all heartbroken for the DeMarsico family," he said. "Michael did truly die a hero serving his country in Afghanistan."
The city had not lost a resident to war since Peter W. Foote III was killed in action in 1968 in Vietnam.
DeMarsico was on his first overseas tour. The private, first class, joined the infantry after high school and was residing in Auburn, Wash., when he was deployed to Afghanistan in February. He was attached to the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, headquartered at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
His extended family had been eagerly awaiting his return in December, when he would have turned 21 years old.
Douglas, and Kristina Babcock of East Greenbush, N.Y., aunts on his mother's side, and his uncle Glen DeMarsico asked that the family be left to grieve in peace. They held hands in solidarity as they spoke of their beloved nephew in the mayor's conference room at City Hall.
They described a strong, quiet, athletic young man with an interest in technology and engineering who was "an amazing brother" to his four siblings. The middle of five children, DeMarsico had planned out his future at an early age with his fascination with toy soldiers.
"Since Michael was a little boy, he's wanted to be in the Army," said Douglas. His parents had supported him, and kept in frequent touch through calls and Facebook post. Now his Facebook wall has become a memorial, with an outpouring memories and condolences from friends and classmates, family and comrades in arms.
On June 21, DeMarsico posted: "the american soldier does not fight because he hates who is in front of him, he fights because he loves who is behind him. R.I.P CM."
DeMarsico has spoken to his father by phone just two days before, said Douglas. "Michael told his parents he'd just accepted a position on the front line, going ahead of his troops to protect them, to find any bombs."
"Michael always put other people before himself, his family and friends, he'd do anything for anybody, that's why he was there," she said, holding up a photo of DeMarsico in uniform his mother kept and a small fatigues-clad teddy bear from his little sister, Leigha, a pupil at Brayton Elementery School.
Alcombright said Leigha had become especially interested in veterans after her brother was deployed.
"Leigha was so passionate about her brother being overseas," he said. "She was planting flags on Memorial Day at the cemetery, she walked with me in the parade this year and sat at the podium.
"She was all about veterans and all about her brother."
DeMarsico is the second of the county's casualties from the war in Afghanistan, and the third in the War on Terror.
Army Sgt. First Class Daniel H. Petithory, a 1987 graduate of Hoosac Valley High School, was killed Dec. 5, 2001, in an American bombing only weeks after the United States invaded the country in response to the terror attacks of Sept. 11. A section of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail through the Green Beret's hometown of Cheshire was dedicated in his honor.
Army Sgt. Glenn R. Allison, 24, of Pittsfield, died Dec. 18, 2003, from a physical ailment while serving during the Iraq War with the 10th Mountain Division.
A tearful Douglas said she was angry that U.S. troops were still in Afghanistan but not that her nephew was fulfilling his duty there in defense of his country.
"I am so proud of him and every man and woman that's over there," she said, but added with tears, "no parent, aunt, sister, cousin, brother, should ever go through this ... We have to bring them home, all of them."
The private was one of nearly 2,000 U.S. fatalities in the 11-year-old war, the nation's longest. The same day he was killed, seven other servicemen lost their lives in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan. The current plan is to draw down the U.S. presence in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Until DeMarsico comes home, the military star flag in his parents' window will remain illuminated and the city's flags at half staff.
"He was a young hero, a young hero gone too soon," said Babcock.
"A hero that was deployed to Afghanistan, and now deployed to Heaven," continued Douglas. "He'll just be standing at a different gate."
Correction: 11 Bravo is a designation for a military occupation specialty in the infantry. It was erroneously reported as a unit number. Updated with unit and place of death.
Tags: casualty, war,