December 18, 2010

Derry Marine had 'Heart of a Lion'

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Michael E. Geary’s mother, Nancy, and other family members follow the honor guard carrying his casket down the steps of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Derry after yesterday’s funeral Mass for the 20-year-old Marine who was killed in Afghanistan Dec. 8. PHOTOS/TOM ROY
Union Leader Correspondent
Tim Geary mourns at his son's grave.
DERRY -- To the hundreds of mourners lining Crystal Avenue yesterday morning, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Geary’s death was much more than a sad story. He was one of them.
Geary, 20, was killed in combat Dec. 8 while serving with Fox Company 2/9 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Not a seat was empty inside the St. Thomas Aquinas church in Derry, where relatives, friends, state and town officials gathered for the Derry resident’s funeral Mass. Burial with full military honors followed at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen
Friends and family members remembered Geary as a friendly, funny and determined young man who was devoted to his mother, Nancy, and at age 14 knew he wanted to be a Marine.
True to his word, Geary was off to boot camp within a month after his 2009 graduation from Pinkerton Academy.
On Friday morning, sections of Crystal Avenue were closed to traffic as uniformed Marines, police officers and others silently saluted the funeral procession as it passed under a giant American flag, bearing witness to the hearse carrying Geary’s flag-draped casket. (For more photos from Friday’s cer­
emonies, visit: http://www. unionleader. com/ photos/ geary.) During his eulogy, Angus Douglas, Geary’s uncle, expressed gratitude for his nephew’s self-sacrifice as he remembered tidbits of a life cut short. 

“He was a devoted son, a kind friend and an exemplary Marine,” said Douglas, who noted even though his nephew was never a math whiz or sports star during his high school years, he had the heart of a lion. 
Douglas recalled the day he said goodbye to his nephew — the day he departed for Afghanistan. “We told him to take good care of himself,” he said. “He told us he’d do his best.” 
Douglas said his nephew was a mentor to his many cousins and always had a smile on his face. During his years at Pinkerton Academy, Geary was said to have comforted a sad sophomore classmate with daily “cheer-up” text messages. 
“But Michael always knew what he wanted, he never wavered from his commitments,” Douglas said. “And it’s what Michael did behind closed doors that surprised everyone the most.” 
In his unit, fellow Marines considered Geary a true leader, as well as a mentor for soldiers struggling with deployment. 
“Even when he was in Afghanistan, he’d always tell us ‘Don’t worry about me,’” Douglas said, choking back tears. “That’s just how he was: he always had faith everything would work out.” 
“He constantly put others before himself,” said Gov. John Lynch, who attended yesterday’s funeral services with his wife, Dr. Susan Lynch. “That is a true definition of a hero.” 
Though Lynch did not know Geary, the governor expressed admiration and gratitude for the young Marine. 
“He made his family, community and country so proud,” said Lynch. “Mike will live on in all of this; we owe him and his family a debt we can never pay.” 
“He understood it was his duty to be able to defend, even if that meant giving up his life,” the Rev. Bruce Czapla, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, said yesterday. “The challenge for us, as we prepare to celebrate (Christmas) is to show our support for one another, especially Michael’s family. In the face of all difficulties … we must say yes.” 
He urged Geary’s loved ones to continue expressing such courage, not just during life’s challenging moments, but also in their day-to-day lives. 

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