Saturday, April 14, 2007

Anthony Palermo honored by military families

BROCKTON — Maria Melendez on Tuesday night quietly came out of her bedroom, where she has spent much of her time since learning about the death of her eldest son, Army Capt. Anthony Palermo Jr., in Iraq last week.

Surrounded by her family and as tears trickled down the petite Brockton mother's cheeks, she hugged other military mothers whose children — some of whom are also serving in Iraq — knew her fallen son.

One by one, Melendez held on to their embrace.

“Our children are around the world serving with Tony. They couldn't be here, so we're here in their place,” said Dale Devonshire of Brockton, tears streaming down her cheeks, before presenting Melendez with a tightly folded American flag in Palermo's honor.

“Our children are here in spirit,” said Devonshire, 53. “This flag is from Brockton High. It flew on the flagpole there at the school, where all of our children met.”

Darlene Weeks of Brockton gave Melendez an embrace for her son, Army Capt. Matthew Weeks, 26, who served in junior ROTC and attended Norwich University in Vermont with Palermo.

“He had talked to Tony the day before he was killed. They were close friends,” said Weeks, 50, her eyes brimming with tears. “He's taking it really hard.”

Other military mothers attending were Kathleen Porrazzo of Brockton, whose daughter, Army Lt. Kimberly Porrazzo, 23, is serving in Qatar, and Janet Diver, whose son, Army Staff Sgt. Dennis Diver, 25, is serving in Afghanistan.

The women are all members of the Eastern Massachusetts Chapter of the Blue Star Mothers of America Inc., a support group for mothers with sons or daughters in military service.

Palermo died last week along with two of his soldiers when an improvised explosive device exploded near their Humvee. He was 26.

Palermo's uncle, Army Sgt. Angel Ortiz, flew with his nephew's remains back to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Sunday night.

There will be no funeral or wake, and Palermo's remains will be cremated at a later date to fulfill his wishes, family members said.

“Tony's wishes was that he would be cremated and we'd spread his ashes up in Maine where he spent a lot of time with his wife,” said Palermo's cousin, Meredith Griffin, 29, of Raynham.

A memorial Mass is being planned for some time in May in St. Patrick Catholic Church on Main Street, where Palermo received his First Communion.

The Mass will be held in May so Palermo's wife, Kristin Palermo, also an Army captain based in Germany, can attend after giving birth to the couple's son, who they had already named Marcus Anthony.

“It's going to be a celebration of life,” Griffin said.

Palermo, a devoted Red Sox fan, “wanted a party,” Griffin said. “He wanted lots of flowers, and he wanted us to all go and speak about his life, about the different memories we have of him, and play all his CDs.”

For the memorial Mass in May, Palermo's family will ask members of the community who knew him to bring “a letter to Tony's son, just talking about any moment that they want to share,” Griffin said.

“Since he's not going to be around to experience that with his father, we're going to give him that,” Griffin said.

The U.S. Department of Defense officially confirmed the death of Palermo and two other soldiers Monday.

Spc. Ryan S. Dallam, 24, of Norman, Okla., and Private Damian Lopez Rodriguez of Tucson, Ariz., also were killed in the roadside attack.

They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany.

Palermo was stationed in Wurzburg, Germany, before being deployed on his second tour of duty to Iraq.

Palermo, a Bridgewater State College graduate, is the ninth local soldier to die in Iraq since March 2003.

After the small flag ceremony at her home Tuesday, Melendez — too distraught to be interviewed or photographed — quietly went back into her bedroom, and shut the door.

From the Enterprise

Related Link:
Anthony Palermo Jr. reported killed in Iraq