The small Berkshire town of Dalton said goodbye today to one of its own, as full military honors were employed to mark the passing of the latest Massachusetts service member to be killed in action in Afghanistan.
The bells at Saint Agnes Catholic church in Dalton somberly marked the death [sfx down] of twenty four year old US Army Specialist Mitchell Daehling, who was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan earlier this month.
In addition to family, friends, military personnel, representatives of the Dalton American Legion, and state and local police, those on hand to honor Daehling included Governor Deval Patrick, Congressman Richard Neal, and Berkshire county’s State House delegation.
U-S Senator Elizabeth Warren says the timing of Daehling’s funeral, just before Memorial Day weekend, underlines the importance of Monday’s holiday.
“It is the time every year when we come to honor all of those of those who have served. We start this weekend with a very painful reminder that those who serve agree that they will put everything up for us.”
Daehling was the 46th service member from Massachusetts to be killed since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001. He graduated from Wahconah Regional high School in 2006 before attending Daniel Webster College in Nashua. Daehling enlisted in the Army in 2010 and got married last summer. His widow Samantha delivered the eulogy.
As a bugler played taps, twenty-two members of the veterans’ group Patriots Guard Riders lined the street across from the church, standing at attention and holding American flags.
Howard Shrut of Newton, an Army veteran himself, is the state captain of the group. Noting the outpouring of support for the Daehling family, he says the climate in 2013 shows an improvement from the Viet Nam era.
“Being a Viet Nam vet, when I came home, no one cared. When my fellow soldiers came home in a box no one cared. Here, with Iraq and Afghanistan, it doesn’t matter whether you’re for the war or against the war, but you support the soldier. And that’s a monumental shift in attitude and I’m happy for it.”
Daehling will be buried in Idaho next to his maternal grandfather, also a Purple Heart recipient.