8/23/12 | 550 views
Marine’s Death Hits Home
Traffic was thick on Long Beach Road in Oceanside last Saturday afternoon, that much I noticed right after making the turn from Lincoln Avenue. On my way to pick up my teenage daughter from her friend’s house, shopkeepers were already beginning to gather outside their stores on the main commercial strip in the suburban Long Island town. Some were holding American flags.
That’s when it hit me. They were waiting for the funeral procession for Lance Cpl. Greg Buckley Jr., a Marine killed while serving in southern Afghanistan only the week before. It would move along Long Beach Road on its way to the Funeral Mass at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre, which was attended by more than 1,000 people.
After I got my daughter, we proceeded directly home. On the way back, I saw several neighbors standing in place near the corner where Lincoln Avenue meets Long Beach Road. We arrived back home in time for me to quickly call out to my wife, Lynn, and ask whether she wanted to hurry back with me to where our neighbors were gathered. A minute later we were on our way.
When we got to the spot, there wasn’t much socializing, just a few words of greeting exchanged with neighbors and others there. For the past week, details of the 21-year-old Buckley’s service to his country and his death had occupied the thoughts and prayers of many in our Long Island community and beyond, thanks to news coverage and social media postings.
He had been killed, along with two other Marines, in an “insider attack” on Aug. 10 at the hands of a 15-year-old boy working for a police chief in Afghanistan. (On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in Afghanistan for meetings with military commanders and other senior coalition and Afghan officials. The visit came after a two-week period in which 10 American service members were killed in “insider attacks” by Afghan security forces.)
We watched silently on Aug. 18, some with hands over hearts and others cupping their hands in a military salute, as the funeral procession made its way past us. Especially poignant was the participation of more than 100 motorcyclists, who rolled by with their engines turned way down. They are Patriot Guard Riders, who take part at military funerals with the permission of the family.
Greg Buckley Jr. was the oldest of three boys in the family of Marina and Greg Buckley Sr. He was a graduate of Oceanside High School who played on the football and basketball teams there. His younger brothers, one of whom is a recent graduate and the other a senior this fall, have both spoken since his death about the ways their older brother was a role model for them and how much they have tried to emulate him.
Greg Jr. was due to come home for a surprise five-day visit just a few days after he was killed. The whole family was looking forward to it, and to his eventual return home after his tour of duty was to end a few months from now.
“The hole in our hearts is as big as that American flag draped across the fire truck outside,” said Msgr. William Koenig, rector of St. Agnes Cathedral in his homily at the Funeral Mass.
That about summed it up, not only for the thousand people inside the cathedral, the others assembled outside and on the nearby streets, and millions more across Long Island, the metropolitan area and the country.
One can only hope the Buckley family took some solace in the support of friends and neighbors in their very dark hour. We couldn’t take away their pain, but we could stand with them.
Browse our archive of photos