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Fallen Mass. Soldier, 21, Remembered As Funny, Kind

Another Massachusetts community has buried a service member who died in Iraq.

Twenty-one-year-old Corey Shea of Mansfield was killed in Mosul earlier this month when an Iraqi solider opened fire on him and others in his Army troop. Six soldiers were injured in that attack and two died, including Shea.

WBUR's Sacha Pfeiffer was at his funeral Monday and has this story.

Corey Shea's coffin arrived at St. Mary's Church on a horse-drawn wagon while bagpipers played in the cold. On the church lawn were the Patriot Guard Riders holding American flags. The veterans in leather jackets were there to pay their respects and later escort Shea's family by motorcycle to the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne. Facing the vets were school children in plaid uniforms watching silently as the casket was carried inside.

(SOUND OF BAGPIPES)

Shea's unit was deployed to Iraq just about a year ago. His classmates at Mansfield High School, where he graduated in 2005, describe him as a loyal friend with a buoyant personality. John Cuneo played street roller hockey with Shea and was captain of their high school hockey team. Cuneo said Shea was a reliable, fun-loving teammate.

CUNEO: Hard worker. He never gave up — didn't have the most skill but worked as hard as he could all the time. He was always rallying the team up, having a good time, trying to keep everyone happy even when the team was losing.

Shea's friends and family said he liked sports, video games, and Texas hold 'em poker. After graduating from Mansfield High, he took a few classes at a local community college before enlisting in the Army. He talked about becoming a police officer when he was out of the military. His classmate Chris Davis say he's still in shock that Shea is gone.

DAVIS: I couldn't believe it. I was just like, no, this can't be happening, you know? We're only 20, 21. We're young. It's just like, oh my God. This is mind-boggling, you know? It gives you the goose bumps.

(CHURCH MUSIC)

Hundreds of people filled the pews at St. Mary's Church in Mansfield. There were dozens of police, fire fighters, and uniformed military officers. Senator John Kerry, a Vietnam vet, and Governor Deval Patrick were also in the crowd. After the service, Kerry noted that Shea had returned to the town for a visit just last month.

KERRY: There's just no greater pain that a parent suffers. A 21-year-old who's serving their country and comes home a little while ago and goes back, and now he comes back like this. It just doesn't get worse.

After the funeral, a woman named Terry stood by herself in front of the church carrying a flag. She said she didn't know Corey Shea or his family. But she explained that she has twin sons who served in the military, and she's grateful they made it home alive.

TERRY: One was in the Army, came home safe. One was in the Marines, came home safe. And the one that was in the Marines was in Iraq three times. So to see this — it could have been mine.

After Shea's death, the U.S. Army awarded him a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He had been scheduled to finish his tour of duty in January. He was killed on Nov. 12.

For WBUR, I'm Sacha Pfeiffer.

This program aired on November 25, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

Sacha Pfeiffer Twitter Host, All Things Considered
Sacha Pfeiffer was formerly the host of WBUR's All Things Considered.

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