View Full Version : A sad homecoming for Marine

02-16-07, 07:09 AM
A sad homecoming for Marine
Swampscott pilot killed in Iraq war

By Steven Rosenberg, Globe Staff | February 16, 2007

SWAMPSCOTT - The blue lights from the police cruisers flashed as the 14-car procession, which included a black hearse, turned slowly onto Elwin Street. Marine Captain Jennifer J. Harris, had been scheduled to return from her third tour of Iraq on Wednesday. Her homecoming was a day later and infinitely sadder than planned.

Harris, 28, was killed Feb. 7 along with six other service members after insurgents shot down the helicopter she was piloting in Anbar Province . She was the first servicewoman from Massachusetts to die in combat in the Iraq war.

The procession, which started at Hanscom Field, came to a halt in front of the modest green Cape Cod-style home of Harris's parents . Several neighbors, their faces etched with sadness, looked on in the frigid weather. Some held American flags, others offered salutes.

Then Raymond Harris walked from a limousine that was part of the procession to the back of the hearse. Once there, he opened the door and stood silently , looking at his daughter's flag-covered casket. A minute later, he gently closed the door and returned to the limo. The procession proceeded . The Marine captain's neighbors were still trying to sort out their feelings.

"This is so sad ," said Jimmy Connors, who played with Harris as a child in the neighborhood. "I remember her parents used to pick her up at the airport when she'd come home, and now she's coming home this way."

Connors had spent the morning buying as many small American flags as he could. An hour before Harris's procession made its way down Elwin Street. Connors and other neighbors placed the flags in snow banks throughout the neighborhood.

A neighbor, Julie Faulkner, stood with her children, Mackenzie, 9, and Liam, 7. Faulkner dismissed her children from school so they could honor Harris . The three clutched flags.

Faulkner said she would tell her children that Harris did "a great job" for the country. "I'll remember her with great dignity, pride, and love of her country, and love of her family," she said.

Andrew Roland, who lives two doors away, went to school with Harris and also served in the Marines. He called his friend, a National Honor Society member who ranked fifth in her 1996 Swampscott High graduating class, brilliant. "As an officer, she could basically write her own ticket, and she volunteered to go over there. She was very brave," he said of the Naval Academy graduate.

Funeral services for Harris will be held Monday . Harris will be buried in Swampscott Cemetery.


02-17-07, 07:42 AM
Protesters' rant limited at rites
Family, friends and Marines remember Cpl. Jennifer Parcell, killed this month in Iraq

By Mary Gail Hare
Sun Reporter
Originally published February 16, 2007, 9:28 PM EST

Members of a contentious Kansas church protested Friday at the funeral of a fallen Maryland Marine, their first foray into the state since a law was passed to insulate grieving families from the often virulent rhetoric of the group.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka observed the law's limitations, staying 100 feet from the Oak Grove Baptist Church in Bel Air, where friends and loved ones were paying homage to Cpl. Jennifer M. Parcell, a 20-year-old Marine killed in Iraq earlier this month.

"This was nothing personal to her," said Abigail Phelps, a member of Westboro Baptist, whose sign read, "Thank God for dead soldiers."

"No law will keep us off-message or off-task," she said. "This law was only put in place because people don't like the words on our signs."

Members of the church show up at funerals for young people nationwide, because members say the deaths are God's punishment for condoning homosexuality. The group contacted the Harford County Sheriff's Office before the funeral to make sure its protest was within the newly defined boundaries, said Sgt. Chris Presberry, sheriff's spokeswoman.

The department was prepared to make arrests at the funeral, if demonstrators violated the state law, which was enacted last year and took effect in October.

"People were screaming expletives at us," Phelps said.

The demonstrators, who plan to be at a funeral Saturday for two brothers who drowned after falling through the ice near their Cambridge home, left soon after the service began.

"We give our message to those going to the funeral and that is that God is killing American children as punishment for sin," said Megan Phelps-Roper, a Westboro member.

Martha Benton, Parcell's maternal aunt, said she noticed the protesters and told them to go home.

"They wasted their time here," Benton said. "Nobody cared what they had to say."

About 30 members of the Patriot Guard, each carrying a large American flag, lined the entrance to the Bel Air church Friday, hours before the service, to shield mourners.

"We feel a need to honor our soldiers for their sacrifice and to show the family that we care," said David Shea, assistant state captain for the Patriot Guard, adding he was aware of the demonstrators across the street.

The Patriot Guard, many of them veterans, remained in place throughout the service, despite bitter wind and biting cold, and then joined the funeral procession to the cemetery.

Marine Cpl. Joseph Parcell, the older brother of Jennifer Parcell, made his way among the Patriot Guard, extending thanks.

"It is our honor," Shea said.

Maj. Kenneth Quiner, Jennifer Parcell's commanding officer, traveled to Maryland from the Okinawa base where she was stationed.

"I knew this corporal, but I wanted to know where she came from," he said at her funeral. "I am truly amazed at this beautiful, strong family."

He praised Parcell, a combat support specialist, for her courage, tenacity and dedication.

"She served her country with honor and never faltered," Quiner said. "She made everyone else meet her at the highest level. The legacy and memories of her life are burnt deep in our hearts."

He ended his remarks with the Marine Corps standard "Semper Fidelis" -- always faithful.

At Bel Air Memorial Gardens, long after a bugler played "Taps" and seven Marines fired a 21-gun salute, Quiner stood solemnly at watch by his fallen Marine's casket. He remained there, until the last mourner had left the cemetery.



02-19-07, 03:57 PM


I signed the guestbook. :(

02-19-07, 05:42 PM
as did i...the Marines lost a damn good officer

02-19-07, 05:56 PM

02-20-07, 05:34 AM
A painful farewell to a fallen Marine
'She flies now on the wings of angels'

By Scott Allen, Globe Staff | February 20, 2007

SWAMPSCOTT -- Captain Jennifer Jean Harris was one of the first pilots to reach her helicopter and lift off when the emergency call came into the ready room on the day that she died. Though the 28-year-old Marine was just days from leaving Iraq, Harris was still focused on ferrying injured Marines to safety, said her former commander, Colonel Michael Hudson . Before the CH-46 troop transport she was piloting crashed this month, he said, Harris and her six crew members saved the life of one more Marine.

Yesterday, more than 1,000 mourners crowded into St. John the Evangelist Church to say a final goodbye to Harris, watching as a Marine honor guard carried her flag-draped coffin into the seaside church where she was baptized. Harris, the first Massachusetts servicewoman killed in the Iraq war, never rested on her laurels, her former Naval Academy roommate said, beating the odds to become a female pilot in the Marine Corps' renowned Purple Foxes. But Harris's former commander said her true legacy may be measured in funerals never held.

"There are so many people today who are not gathered in a place like this because Captain Harris flew," intoned Hudson, standing ramrod straight in his dress blue uniform as he spoke from the pulpit.

Harris's funeral, an emotional ceremony of religious ritual and military honor, drew hundreds of uniformed personnel from the Marines, the Navy, veterans groups, and police departments in addition to Governor Deval Patrick and US Representative John F. Tierney. Despite stiff winds and single-digit temperatures, people lined Humphrey Street in Swampscott to catch a glimpse of the horse-drawn white hearse that carried Harris's casket to the church where five priests as well as Bishop Francis X. Irwin waited to say her funeral Mass.

Coming less than six months after the funeral for another Iraq casualty -- Army Specialist Jared J. Raymond -- in the same church, some mourners had a painful sense of deja vu. In all, 65 Massachusetts service members have died in Iraq, according to an estimate from Senator Edward M. Kennedy's office. Sargent Drew Glazier, a Marine reservist who played taps for Harris yesterday at the cemetery, said he had lost count of the funerals for Iraq casualties at which he had performed.

"I'm thinking about my brother who's in the Marines right now," said Derrick Topp of Marblehead as he sat with head bowed before the service. His brother has already served in Iraq twice, and could be called back again.

Harris, the only daughter of a General Electric worker and a schoolteacher, died with all of her crew members when her helicopter crashed 20 miles northwest of Baghdad on Feb. 7. A Sunni group with connections to Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility, but the Marines have not confirmed that. A Marine spokesman has said that the aircraft was in flames as it went down, but there was no sign of enemy fire.

The Rev. Clyde Chetwynde , pastor of St. John, said Harris was shaped by a loving extended family who gave her the courage to dream big, even when she was a young girl. "You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals," Harris wrote in her 1996 high school yearbook. "To that end, each of us must work for our own improvement." That fall, she entered the Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Lieutenant Rose Goscinski , Harris's roommate at Annapolis, recalled that when Harris learned she had been accepted into Marine aviation training, Harris gave all her Navy dress uniforms to the younger, similar-sized Goscinski so that she would not have to purchase more uniforms herself. "You felt guilty complaining to her about some minute thing because, my goodness, she could do it all and do it with grace and style," Goscinski said.

Now, Goscinski said, her "sister in arms" can rest, concluding, "You have fought the good fight. You have finished the race. Lay hold of eternal life." The congregation broke into applause.

Hudson, Harris's commanding officer in the Purple Foxes during the second of her three tours of Iraq, tried to give people a sense of the young captain's dedication to duty on her last night. He said she was in the ready room -- "probably talking about going home because they were close to getting there" -- when the team got an emergency call. Before even finding out where the helicopters were going, the pilots would start their engines and take to the air as quickly as possible .

"You could count on Captain Harris to be one of the first pilots to get her craft airborne," he said. Once in the air, she would have been given GPS coordinates for her destination, keeping the craft low in the sky until everyone's survival gear was on-line. Despite all the technology on board the CH-46, the night would still have seemed very dark to the crew as they flew across the desert, he said. Nonetheless, he said, they reached the medics who were treating a wounded Marine, and delivered life-saving supplies.

"Captain Harris was free when she flew," Hudson said. "She flies now on the wings of angels."

After the service, a procession half a mile long made its way to Swampscott Cemetery where Harris was laid to rest as her fiance, Major Christopher Aaby , stood at attention in silent tribute.

Scott Allen can be reached at allen@globe.com.


03-09-07, 09:12 AM
Captain Harris was an American Hero, who served her country with pride. May God Bless the family and loved ones of Captain Harris.....