Saturday September 1, 2012

NORTH ADAMS -- Selfless and steadfast, playful and appreciative, a lady's man and a leader.

At a funeral Saturday celebrating the life of U.S. Army Pfc. Michael R. DeMarsico II, hundreds of friends, family members and supporters shared in memories of the fallen soldier, who was killed in action at age 20 while serving in Afghanistan.

"He was all about people," said Rev. David A. Anderson, who officiated the service. "It was family first. And he understood that friends are family. He was loving, kind and loyal. And he was funny and always liked to joke around and always liked to make other people laugh."

DeMarsico, hit by a roadside bomb on Aug.

U.S. Army soldiers carry the coffin of Pfc. Michael R. DeMarsico II, 20, into the First Baptist Church on Main Street in North Adams.
U.S. Army soldiers carry the coffin of Pfc. Michael R. DeMarsico II, 20, into the First Baptist Church on Main Street in North Adams. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
16, is the first soldier from North Adams to be killed in action since the Vietnam War. He is the second Berkshire Country resident to die in Afghanistan.

Mourners nearly filled the 725-seat First Baptist Church on Main Street. Several hundred more -- many dressed in the blue of DeMarsico's alma mater, Drury High School -- stood outside, where audio of the service was broadcast on loud speakers.

Likewise, about 200 motorcycle riders from around New England and New York lined the streets around the church with American flags; most were affiliated with the Patriot Guard, a group of motorcycle riders dedicated to paying final respects to fallen service men and women.

The funeral was also attended by local, state and federal officials, including Gov. Deval Patrick and U.S. senators Scott Brown and John Kerry.

Before the ceremony began, the crowd gathered outside was silent as the remains of DeMarsico arrived in a flag-draped casket carried in a horse-drawn caisson. Flags beat in the wind and the church's bell tolled as DeMarsico's family members were led into the ceremony.

The service was personal and the memories shared were alternately light hearted and deeply emotional.

Hundreds of military and community members line up to pay their respects to U.S. Army Pfc. Michael R. DeMarsico II.
Hundreds of military and community members line up to pay their respects to U.S. Army Pfc. Michael R. DeMarsico II. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

Anderson described DeMarsico plan to take up snowboarding as a way to meet women, and his strategy of falling down on the slopes so women would come over and ask if he was OK.

He was also remembered as a "relentless leader - both in sports here in town and in other areas of life" whose faith in God strengthened in his final months as he faced death daily in Afghanistan, Anderson said.

From an early age, he said, DeMarsico was fascinated with war movies, military books, maps, and History Channel documentaries, and his childhood dream of serving his country never faded.

"As a boy he wanted to be a soldier, as a soldier he did not hide or retreat," Anderson said. "He asked for the toughest duties - out in point - doing what he did to protect his brothers - to save their lives and protect ours."

The remarks were based on earlier conversations with DeMarsico's parents, Lisa and Michael R. DeMarsico, and his four siblings, Aubrey Raye DeMarsico, Kailey Rose DeMarsico, Leigha Renae DeMarsico and Adam Reed DeMarsico.

The entire family resides in North Adams and Anderson called DeMarsico's death a common loss that is shared by the community.

"We are here to embrace the DeMarsico family because we are their family now," Anderson said "We are here to bring honor to the sacrifice that Michael has made for his country -- for all of us as citizens of this country. We are here to remember the life that Michael lived and we are here to celebrate that life."

U.S. Army Major General Stephen Lanza, who traveled to the funeral from Washington, D.C., related memories from DeMarsico's fellow platoon members. As the point man of his platoon, DeMarsico "led from the front with courage and fortitude," finding and disarming 15 explosive devices before the one that took his life, Lanza said.

DeMarsico didn't die alone, he said, but in the arms of the platoon's medic, who made sure DeMarsico didn't suffer.

"Michael was indeed loved -- not just by those who are here today -- but by those who he served with in combat," Lanza said. "Michael was loved by his band of brothers in Afghanistan."

DeMarsico's friend, Jessica Storie, 18, said she appreciates the outpouring of support from the community leading up to and during the funeral.

"It shows how many people cared about him, and how many people he knew, and the impact he had on this community," she said. "It's just unbearable, [but] it shows everyone can get together and appreciate what he did for everyone."

To reach Ned Oliver:
noliver@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6240.
On Twitter: @NedOliver