Friday, March 30, 2007

John Landry laid to rest

WILMINGTON -- A white, horse-drawn hearse carried the silver casket of Private John Landry Jr. along residential streets lined with more than 2,000 mourners yesterday.

Some of the mourners saluted as the procession passed; others held American flags.

At his funeral Mass at St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic Church, Landry, who died in combat March 17, was hailed as a hero. He was the first Lowell serviceman to be killed in the war in Iraq.

Friends and family recalled that joining the Army was Landry's goal since his freshman year of high school and that he had just returned to duty in Iraq as a rifleman after two weeks of leave in Florida with his parents.

Landry's parents were thrilled when their son was born on Christmas Day 1986, three weeks earlier than expected, because they were given "extra time with him," Margaret McKenna, a family friend, said during the eulogy.

An honors student, Landry attended Lowell Catholic High School, where he graduated cum laude in 2005 and served on the student council and in a campus ministry.

"He was really smart," said a tearful Kelsey Wright, 20, a former classmate. Grinning, Wright added, "I copied off of him a couple times."

Standing 5 feet 10 inches tall, with a 240-pound frame, Landry was a "gentle giant" who struck fear in his opponents as a lineman on the football field, but revealed a softer side to family and friends, McKenna said.

Although Landry had received a college scholarship, he opted to follow his father, John F. Landry, who served in the Marines, and grandfather, who was a member of the 82d Airborne Division, by joining the military. Since Oct. 31, Landry had served with the Second Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment of the First Cavalry Division.

"It was like the military was made for John," said 20-year-old Lance Chamberlain, a former classmate. "He knew he was going to be in the Army since he was a freshman. There was no stopping him."

A crowd, many holding small American flags, gathered outside Nichols Funeral Home on Middlesex Avenue, where the immediate family packed a black limousine that followed Landry's hearse.

The procession included dozens of police officers riding motorcycles and students from Lowell Catholic wearing their green uniform sweaters.

It continued beneath an enormous US flag suspended between the ladders of two fire trucks, and past Wilmington High School and other schools where students solemnly watched.

Once mourners packed the pews at St. Thomas of Villanova, ushers closed the doors. Inside, three priests encouraged the group to remember the way Landry lived and to take solace in Catholic traditions.

"The grief passes; the honor remains," said the Rev. Marc J. Bishop. "We know that those who act in a godly way will be cared for by God himself."

The Landry family quietly sobbed. Sitting adjacent to Landry's casket, they filled at least the first four pews of the church.

"In peace, let us take John to his place of rest," the Rev. Paul Flammia said before Landry's casket was transported to Wildwood Cemetery.

There, hundreds gathered and presented Landry's parents with a bronze medal, a medal for conduct, and the American flag that had draped his coffin.

From the Globe

Related Link:
John F. Landry Jr. dies of injuries from I.E.D.