Hero’s funeral: Flags to line route of procession
The Patriot Ledger

There will be a sea of red, white and blue American flags along the procession route for the funeral of Marine Sgt. William J. Callahan.

‘‘We plan to pass them out to schoolchildren and others we hope will come and line the route,’’ Easton Veterans Agent Stephen Nolan said yesterday.

Callahan, 28, a Hanson native, was killed April 27 in Al Anbar province in Iraq.

A funeral Mass for Callahan, the husband of Amy Callahan of Easton and the father of a 3-week-old son he never met, will be celebrated at 10 a.m. tomorrow in Immaculate Conception Church, Easton. Callahan’s burial is tentatively set for Thursday at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

The funeral procession will pass along Center Street from the the Copeland-MacKinnon Funeral Home and go west on Main Street to the church.

Nolan said he has purchased 700 small American flags to be handed out along the half-mile funeral procession route.

Nolan plans to ask Easton School Superintendent William Simmons if students might be allowed to leave school at 9:30 or 9:45 a.m. tomorrow so they can join the 200 Marines and approximately 200 veterans expected to be along the procession route.

A contingent from the Marine Corps League will distribute the flags to people along the route. Nolan said the League’s Metro South Detachment, of which he is a member, will be on hand.

‘‘We are requesting that people will show up to honor this Marine, his wife and child,’’ Nolan said.

On Saturday afternoon, the Sons of the American Legion of Hanson, Post 226, sponsored a raising of the U.S. and Marine Corps flags on a 20-foot flagpole erected Friday on the front lawn of the home of Sgt. Callahan’s mother, Mary Ellen Callahan, in Hanson. Town police, Hanson Veterans Agent Robert Arsenault, clergy and community members also attended the ceremony.

Callahan’s uncle, Jeffrey Sullivan of Marshfield, requested the flagpole tribute and the Sons of the American Legion post hurried to arrange it, according to Ray Scott, a member, and John Gurry, the post commander. Tony Roderick, the Sons of American Legion chaplain, said a prayer at the ceremony.

‘‘The family was very, very touched,’’ said Brian Crowley, a close friend of the family who lives with Mary Ellen Callahan. More than 30 people attended.

‘‘We’ve never done anything like that before, but this is the first person from Hanson we’ve lost in Iraq,’’ Gurry said. ‘‘Our organization is about doing things for others, and we just wish we could do more for someone who gave the ultimate sacrifice.’’

Mary Ellen Callahan and her family held the first of two wakes yesterday at Copeland-MacKinnon Funeral Home. The second wake will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. today.

Mary Ellen Callahan and Amy Callahan are coping as well as can be expected, Crowley said.

Callahan enlisted in the active Marines after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Crowley said.

‘‘He had been in the Reserve, and he signed up because he felt this country was worth fighting for - and then he re-enlisted and went back to Iraq a second time,’’ Crowley said.

Crowley met Callahan when he was 16 or 17 and said that even as a teenager, Callahan was firmly set in his values.

‘‘You knew Bill was on his way. He had all the strength of his mother, as far as believing in God, doing the right thing. He had his own barometer of what was right and wrong, and it was global,’’ Crowley said.

Born in Weymouth, Callahan was a 1997 graduate of Whitman-Hanson Regional High School. He joined the Marine Corps Reserve in September 1997 and was trained as an ordnance disposal technician for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The Marine Corps Engineer Association named Callahan its explosive ordnance technician of the year in 2006.

On Nov. 1, 2005, he had disposed of a bomb in Ramadi when a second bomb detonated beneath his team’s vehicle, killing Marine Sgt. Daniel Tsue and Navy Petty Officer Allan Cundanga Espiritu. Callahan’s son, Daniel Allan Callahan, is named for Tsue and Espiritu.

Callahan had never seen his son, who was born April 10.

Sue Scheible may be reached at sscheible@ledger.com .