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The Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School is a big building. The line of people waiting to pay their respects went half way around it. In the parking lot, a huge American flag was suspended between two fire department ladder trucks.
The parking lot was full, so school buses brought people from two other lots nearby.
Coming through the grove of trees wrapped in yellow ribbon in front of the high school, Peggy Verano, a relative by marriage, speculated on why so many people have turned out to mourn Marine Cpl. Nicholas Xiarhos, who was killed in Afghanistan last week. The 21-year-old graduated from Dennis-Yarmouth.
"It's sad to say, but I think at times people actually get immune to what goes on," Verano said, "When it hits home, it makes you take a step back and say, 'God, what would we do without these guys and the poor families that have to deal with the sacrifice of losing a child?' "
Xiarhos is the first person from Yarmouth to have been killed in a war since Vietnam.
State Rep. Cleon Turner knew Xarhios's father, Steve, back when they were both police officers in adjoining towns. Turner was also struggling to understand what brought so many people to the wake. "It's maybe bringing home to us the realization that it's still going on," he said. "It's still our sons and daughters over there."
"I think maybe this brought home for us in this community the horror of what the war is actually doing to people all over the country," said Mary Beth Burc, whose son played football with Xiarhos. "I think this has become a war that has a very silent face. We're not sacrificing. So I think that this just gives just a moment in time to stop and remember."
Jojo Jamio ,who played football with Xiarhos for two years, had his own explanation for the outpouring of grief. "All of Cape Cod's a tight-knit community, so once one goes down, everybody groups together and pulls together for each other," he said.
So many people turned up at the wake that the Red Cross was handing out snacks and water.
Jay Costas was in charge of making sure that there was enough to go around. "People are looking to give their support in general," Costas said, "and I think that because this particular person was a popular student — his father is a police officer, well-liked and well-known — that maybe it gave them that opportunity to vent that pent-up, 'I want to say thanks in some kind of way.' "
Ruth Banner came for Daniel McGuire from Mashpee, who was in her church, and who was killed in Iraq last summer. "Just honoring the boys; knowing what they did for us," she said.
Tyler Hand and Chase Jones served in the same platoon as Xiarhos on a previous tour of duty in Iraq. They drove up from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
His eyes welling with tears, Jones says they had wanted to go with Xiarhos to Afghanistan, but in the end he went without them. "We grew up in the Marine Corps together, so to speak," Jones said. "Nick was the kind of guy you never forget. He had an impact on you immediately. I think he said it best in the car. There's a line from a song."
"Yeah. Uh, wait a second," Hand said. " 'I mourn for those who never knew you.' I mourn for the people who never knew Nick. Because if you knew Nick, like he said, you would never forget him."
This program aired on July 31, 2009.
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