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Swampscott Remembers the Fallen

Memorial Day will be especially hard in the town of Swampscott. Since last Memorial Day, the small coastal community lost two of its young people.

WBUR's Bianca Vazquez Toness recently caught up with Jaclyn Raymond, who lost her son in September.TEXT OF STORY

BIANCA VAZQUEZ TONESS: Jaclyn Raymond is walking around Swampscott Cemetery with the head of the local VFW. They've been placing flags at veterans headstones, getting ready for Memorial Day. Then they come upon a special grave.

JACLYN RAYMOND: That's Jared. That's my boy The stone is two months old.

TONESS: The marble is Army green, the only reference to Jared Raymond's work and death as a soldier.RAYMOND: I put the Red Sox emblem, a muscle car, oh, that was his dream car.

JOHN SACHERSKI: OK.

RAYMOND: Isn't that beautiful?

SACHERSKI: Yeah...do you mind if we go?

RAYMOND: You wanna go? Yeah, ok....

TONESS:This is the first time VFW commander John Sacherski has seen Jared Raymond's grave, and he says it makes him so emotional he has to walk away. The ex-marine who fought in Vietnam, is angry because he believes the troops in Iraq haven't had the resources they've needed.

RAYMOND: In a tank, how did it happen? They're supposed to be safe.

SACHERSKI: Now they're finally building the equipment that's protecting these kids a little bit more when they're driving these things.

RAYMOND: Well, it's a little too late, isn't it?

SACHERSKI: Yeah, it is.

TONESS: Jackie learned the details of her son's death when an envelope arrived in the mail, without a warning of the dark contents inside.

RAYMOND: I opened it and read through like the first two pages...and i couldn't do it.

TONESS: The report contained graphic pictures and descriptions of Jared's death.

Jared's unit was assigned to protect a military convoy near Baghdad. He was driving a tank on a dirt road when an IED exploded underneath his vehicle. When they freed Jared he looked relatively OK, apart from broken leg and arm. He was talking and got up off the stretcher, wanting to join his troops. But it turned out he was bleeding badly on the inside. He died five hours after the accident. The other two soldiers in the tank survived.

Jaclyn blames the army for not personally delivering this information, not telling her the report may upset her.

RAYMOND: I mean they took my son's life...not them...but, ya know...If he didn't go in the military, would he still be here? I'm sure. I guess you can't point the fingers at anybody....President Bush, that's who I blame.

TONESS: Jared was 15 years old on September 11th, 2001. He decided then that he wanted to enlist, and joined up right after high school. He wanted to be a police officer when he returned from Iraq.

RAYMOND: He was my only child...my life...I'll never see him married, never have grandchildren...That wasn't the plan...That's not the way life was supposed to be.

TONESS: Jaclyn copes by coming to the cemetery.

RAYMOND: That's the highlight of my day coming up here.

TONESS: Do you come everyday?

RAYMOND: On a good day, two or three times a day, on a bad day, five, six, from morning to late at night. I find comfort up here. I feel close to him.

TONESS: Just a few feet away from Jared's grave, is Jennifer Harris. The marine captain died in February, she was her parents only child.

Today the town of Swampscott will dedicate a square to Jennifer Harris, near one dedicated to Jared Raymond on Veteran's Day. Planners chose the locations which flank the town's new high school, thinking Jennifer and Jared would watch over the students at their alma mater.

This program aired on May 28, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

Bianca Vázquez Toness Twitter Reporter
Bianca Vázquez Toness was formerly a report for WBUR.

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