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Pembroke Mourns Soldier

The town of Pembroke is mourning the loss of one of its own today. Funeral services are being held for Private First Class Matthew Bean. He was 22 years old, and served in Iraq. As WBUR's Meghna Chakrabarti reports, Beans' death ties together the story of three Massachusetts servicemen.

Audio for this story will be available after 10am Friday.

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: The flag outside Silver Lake Regional High School flutters at half-staff. Bean graduated here in 2003. His guidance counselor, Robert Laughlin, remembers the kid who walked into his office four years earlier.

ROBERT LAUGHLIN: "Wide-eyed. Impressionable. A kid you found out very quickly that he was one you could trust to deliver on a job you gave him."

CHAKRABARTI: Bean was solid. Quiet. With a deep sense of purpose. His father, Dana is a carpenter. And like him, Bean loved to work with his hands. He played football, and thrived outdoors. Paul Atwater is pastor at Bean's church.

PAUL ATWATER: "One of the factors that led him to enlist in the army was after the first soldier from Pembroke died three years ago.

CHAKRABARTI: Massachusetts Marine 1st Lieutenant Brian McPhillips died in Central Iraq, April 2003. Bean didn't know McPhillips. But it didn't matter.

ATWATER: "His death and his service greatly impacted Matthew, and he felt like he could not sit this one out."

CHAKRABARTI: Bean signed with the Army's 10th Mountain Division. He saw immediate and intense action. He survived three roadside bomb attacks. And saved members of his unit when he discovered another IED. The military awarded Bean the Bronze Star for that. But the young man who preferred working a bulldozer to boasting, didn't tell his family. Pastor Paul Atwater:

ATWATER: "The weakest part of our culture is the very self-orientated, what's in it for me now kind of mindset. But the greatest part of our culture is those who serve other people first. And I would put Matthew in that category."

CHAKRABARTI: Inspired to service by one Massachusetts soldier, Bean died searching for another. Specialist Alex Jimenez of Lawrence, one of three US soldiers abducted on May 12. On May 19, as Bean's unit went door-to-door, a sniper shot him in the head with an armor piercing bullet. Last week, Bean's family took him off life support. His high school guidance counselor, Robert Laughlin.

LAUGHLIN: "We should feel so lucky to have young men and young women in uniform who are stepping up and doing the right thing. He's made the supreme sacrifice and I'm choking up just thinking about that. I wish he were alive."

CHAKRABARTI: So does Pastor Paul Atwater.

ATWATER: "Jesus said, 'Greater love has no man than this than he lay down his life for his friends.'"

CHAKRABARTI: It's what comes to mind, the Reverend says, when he thinks of 1st Lieutenant Brian McPhillips, Specialist Alex Jimenez, and Private First Class Matthew Bean.

For WBUR, I'm Meghna Chakrabarti.

This program aired on June 8, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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