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More than 1,800 people attend calling hours for Marine

Union Leader Correspondent

July 03. 2014 6:10PM
U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte hugs Rich Swauger of Goffstown, a member of the NH Patriot Guard Riders, during calling hours for fallen Marine Brandon Garabrant in Peterborough Thursday. (Meghan Pierce)

PETERBOROUGH - More than 1,800 people paid their respects during calling hours for Lance Corporal Brandon Garabrant at ConVal Regional High School on Thursday.

On June 20, Garabrant was one of three Marines killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. The 19-year-old Marine grew up in Greenfield and graduated from ConVal in 2013.

Among the thousands at the calling hours were hundreds of firefighters. About 20 different fire departments from around the area attended the calling hours.

Garabrant was a Fire Explorer and Police Explorer in Peterborough and a Temple firefighter before he joined the Marines.

Peterborough and Temple firefighters made their presence with several fire trucks parked in the ConVal parking lot. And by his coffin on display in the ConVal gym was his Temple firefighting gear.

“Every firefighter from Peterborough went,” said Peterborough firefighter and EMT Thomas Wall. “He's one of our brother's. He's a hero to our country. We're giving him the respect he deserves and giving respect to his family and showing how much he means to this country.”

Wall, 20, of Peterborough graduated one year ahead of Garabrant at ConVal.

“We played football, hockey and lacrosse together and we were both Police and Fire Explores in Peterborough,” Wall said.  “He was always big into public service. He always wanted to help people no matter what it was. He said it was his dream to become a Marine.

“He was really afraid of nothing. For hockey and lacrosse he walked in and said, ‘I want to play goalie' and they said ‘alright' and he ended up being the starter on varsity” for both teams, Wall said.

On the ConVal Football Team, Garabrant played linebacker and lineman.

“He was loved for being a happy kid. He always had smile on his face no matter what it was. Even if we were losing the game by a ton, big smile on his face,” Wall said.

Full text of earlier story continues below.

Large turn out in Peterborough for Marine's calling hours

PETERBOROUGH - Hundreds of people paid their respects to fallen Marine Brandon Garabrant at ConVal Regional High School Thursday afternoon. Many hundreds more are expected to attend the calling hours that end at 8 p.m.

The high school gymnasium was needed to accommodate as many as 2,000 mourners attending from across the Granite State and afar.

One of the first to pay her respects and offer condolence to the family was U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte. After leaving the gymnasium, Ayotte  thanked each member of the New Hampshire Patriot Guard Riders standing outside of the high school, honoring Garabrant with their presence and a row of American flags.

"There's not a memorial in the state that they aren't there with their flags that make everything more meaningful. They are obviously here to honor the sacrifice of Lance Corporal Garabrant, but I've just been really struck by how they're always there for our veterans and for every important ceremony that honors our service men and women," Ayotte said.

Ayotte said she plans to attend the funeral service for Garabrant in the high school gymnasium Saturday at 10 a.m.

A member of the N.H. Patriot Guard Riders, Dan Wilcox of Londonderry, said 30 members were attending the calling hours, but several hundred – including members from Vermont and Massachusetts -- are expected to attend the Saturday service and ride their motorcycles in procession to the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen for burial after.

A friend of the family, Scott Kurzweli of Merrimack attended with other members of the American Legion Riders of Merrimack. After giving their condolences to the family, the Riders gathered in front of Garabrant's coffin and saluted the Marine.

Kurzweli said as a friend of the family he watched Garabrant grow up.

"I couldn't believe it," he said of learning of Garabrant's death. "I knew he hadn't been there that long and how proud he was of being a Marine. … You don't expect it."

Marines Matt Guinard, 19, of Peterborough, and Aspen Ketola, 19, of Rindge, grew up with Garabrant and like him joined the Marines shortly after high school.

Their friend's death has been hard to grasp, Guinard said. “It's hard to think this is actually happening to your buddy.”

Remembering Garabrant, they said he was a dedicated Marine.

"He loved what he did," Ketola said.

"Every second of it,” Guinard added. "It's sounds crazy, but even the way he went, dying for his country, he wouldn't have wanted anything different from that. He was ready do that."

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