ABINGTON, Mass. — Crowds began to gather at the Abington American Legion hours before the procession. In this small town of just 16,000 people, a crowd of about 500 people packed both sides of Washington Street. Many said they were there to pay their last respects to Daniel Vasselian.
“His mother is a friend of mine,” said Tom Dorr of Abington. ”You know, he was a good family man and a good friend.”
Vasselian, 27, was killed while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province — two days before Christmas.
The 2004 graduate of Abington High School had celebrated his fourth wedding anniversary just four days before his death.
As the procession approached, the crowd fell silent. The hearse carrying Vasselian’s body paused in front of the Abington veteran’s memorial, where two dozen honor guard members saluted.
As the procession passed, the crowd got a brief glimpse of members of Vasselian’s family. In the first car was his wife, Erin. She never took her eyes off the casket, adorned with an American flag.
John Boutwell, a Vietnam veteran and former commander of the town’s American Legion Post, says even though he didn’t know Vasselian personally, he’s grateful for the show of support. He remembers a time when returning soldiers were not well-received.
“The respect we have for our servicemen now compared to years past–I think it’s absolutely fantastic,” he said. “And also to show support for the family. We’re a close-knit community here, and beautiful, beautiful turnout here. God rest his soul.”
Vasselian’s wake will be held tomorrow at the Quealy and Son Funeral Home in Abington.
He’ll be laid to rest after a funeral service at St. Bridget Church on Thursday.