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'Every boy next door'

Last modified: 12/18/2010 12:00:00 AM
Yesterday morning inside St. Thomas Aquinas church in Derry, some 400 people gathered to remember Lance Cpl. Michael E. Geary as a courageous Marine killed in action earlier this month.

But when Geary's uncle, Angus Douglas, rose to deliver the eulogy, he honored his 20-year-old nephew in simpler terms. Geary, Douglas said, was "every boy next door."

"He was not the star athlete, nor the musical prodigy . . . he was not the math whiz sitting at the front of the class," Douglas said. "But what Michael had in him was more important than all of those external talents. Michael had heart."

Geary, a 2009 graduate of Derry's Pinkerton Academy, was killed Dec. 8 in Afghanistan's Helmand Province while conducting combat operations. He had begun his first tour of duty in July and was scheduled to return home in February.

At Geary's funeral and the burial ceremony that followed at the state veteran's cemetery in Boscawen, friends and family described a smiling young man who was constantly looking out for others. Douglas said Geary once asked a girl in his sophomore math class why she always looked sad.

"From that day on, he sent her a daily text just to cheer her up," Douglas said. "That was Michael."

Geary knew from the age of 14 that he wanted to serve his country in the Marines, and his enthusiasm rubbed off on those around him. In attendance yesterday were former Pinkerton classmates Jeremy Levesque and Robert Gladysz.

Levesque, 19, was dressed in uniform in his role as a pallbearer, and Gladysz, 18, heads to boot camp in June. Both joined the Marines because of Geary.

"He was motivated," said Gladysz, who met Geary in study hall. "I wanted to be like that."

Levesque remembers first meeting Geary when he applied to work at a Wendy's restaurant in town. Geary was already an employee.

"I waited like six hours for my interview and . . . he just came over and gave me a free Frosty because he snuck behind the manager's back," Levesque said. He was "the most caring guy I've ever met; the most kindhearted. He'd do anything for anyone."

Levesque's mother, Lisa Lima, said Geary assured her that he would watch after her son in the Marines.

"He was like, 'Don't worry, I'll make sure nothing happens to him. I'll take care of him,' " Lima said. "I'll never forget those words."

Levesque said he found out Geary had died when Gladysz texted him at his base in North Carolina.

"I was in shock at first. I couldn't even talk," Levesque said. "It didn't actually hit me until I was one of the pallbearers and actually had to carry him."

Gov. John Lynch spoke at the funeral service, praising Geary's selflessness and describing him as "made for the Marines."

"He knew that his abilities could be best put to use defending this nation," he said.

Lynch told Geary's parents, Nancy and Tim, that "there are no words that I can offer to ease your pain."

"Except that this community and entire state join with you in grief," he said. "On behalf of the state of New Hampshire, I offer my deepest condolences."

Outside the church, veterans, residents and passers-by stopped to listen to the service, which was amplified so as to be heard from across the street.

One of those listening was Dennis Martin, a 51-year-old Coast Guard veteran from Londonderry, who has a son currently serving in Afghanistan on his second tour.

"I think - geez, you know, if this was my son," he said. "This is an American son. This is America's son that we're burying."

(Matthew Spolar can be reached at 369-3309 or mspolar@cmonitor.com.)


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