In Rockland, the family of Marine Lance Corporal Walter O'Haire is burying him today. It would've been his 21st birthday.
WBUR's Bianca Vazquez Toness reports.TEXT OF STORY
BIANCA VAZQUEZ TONESS: Before Walter O'Haire went to Iraq, he was stationed in North Carolina, more than 800 miles away from home. But he still drove to Massachusetts every weekend.
MAUREEN O'HAIRE: Other than the fact Walter brought all these marines home, it was almost like Walter wasn't gone because he was constantly calling and constantly here.TONESS: His mom, Maureen O'Haire, says Walter or Wally as they call him, missed the warmth of their crowded home. She and her husband had five kids, adopted four more and over time, fostered more than 50. Walter was in the middle of the nine.
MAUREEN O'HAIRE: He was different, he was my stubborn one.
TONESS: He was also the most mischievous. When Walter would drive home from North Carolina, he'd often drop friends off in Manhattan and call his mom to make sure she knew he was in New York City, a place that terrified her.
MAUREEN O'HAIREL I'd say, "Wally, why do you do this to me? You know I have anxiety." He says, "You have anxiety because you choose to."
TONESS: As Maureen remembers Walter, she fiddles with a chain around her neck that holds two heart-shaped pendants. One is for her husband Tommy, who died two years ago. The other is in memory of one of their foster children. She's sharing stories with her cousin, Patty Ann King. Together they laugh more than they cry.
PATTY ANN KING: He's one of those guys you look at and say, "Hmmm... that's someone I'd like to party with."
TONESS: King says Walter called her about once a week after he joined the military a year and half ago. She says the family was surprised when stubborn Walter became an obedient marine.
KING: i couldn't believe that is was coming out of Wally's mouth that they're making him clean and run. I'm thinking, "You can't get Wally to clean anything, but if the marines told him to clean it, it would be spic and span."TONESS: When it was time for Walter to go to Iraq at the end of March, Walter wasn't supposed to make any more weekend pilgrammages to Massachusetts. But he still did.MAUREEN O'HAIRE: He just wouldn't stay away, he just wouldn't. And then I was getting nervous. I was like, " Wally...are you gonna go over there? are you really going to stay in the service or are you gonna go AWOL on me? Why do you keep coming home?" I was teasing him. He was like, "Mom, I'm going over there, I'm gonna do what's right, but I like to be here."
TONESS: Maureen supported her son going to Iraq. But her daughter Margaret, Walter's older sister, didn't want him to go.
MARGAARET O'HAIRE: My friend's husband just came home from Iraq and last week I said to him, "Is my baby gonna be ok?" And he's like, "He'll be fine, princess. I promise, he'll be home." He's like, "The war'ss almost over
...He hid from me yesterday.
TONESS: Walter O'Haire was killed last week. According to his mom, he was on foot patrol in Al-Anbar province.
MAUREEN O'HAIRE: He had full gear on from what they say...and he just happened to get a bullet in the back of the head somehow where the material wouldn't have protected. Very unfortunate.
TONESS: Maureen O'Haire plans to put her Walter's ashes in a window at the front of their home.
This program aired on May 15, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.