Funeral held for Lance Corporal Kurt Dechen, 24

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(Host) Friends, family and community members paid tribute on Friday to U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Kurt Dechen of Springfield. Dechen was killed last week in the war in Iraq. He died on his twentyfourth birthday.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Well before the funeral service began, a crowd of mourners dressed mostly in black gathered in the bright afternoon sun. Hundreds filled the brick ivy-covered church in downtown Springfield. In keeping with the family’s wishes, the service was simple. The church pastor and one of Deshen’s fellow Marines were the only speakers.

The Reverend William Nelson recalled seeing Dechen in the church not long ago. Nelson said outwardly the Marine conveyed the serious and dignified air of a man dedicated to a duty that would put him in harm’s way. But there was another side to Dechen:

(Nelson) But those who knew him, knew that beneath the very real dignity and the very real presence of this man was another man filled with fun, with friendly gestures toward all he met, with a love of sports, a love of sports cars, particularly Corvettes and all the other things that young men tend to love.

(Zind) Nelson said a unique aspect of the Iraq war is the ease with which soldiers can communicate with people back home. He said Dechen’s family was particularly struck by a letter written by another Marine in their son’s company. The letter, read by Sergeant Zachary Britt, talked about the soldier’s belief that the war was being fought to protect Iraq’s children and provide them with a better future.

(Britt) I see nothing before me but a child. I am in no country nor race or religion. I am but on a plain, a plain to protect that child and give it safety from the wolves on the streets.

(Zind) Kurt Dechen was killed while on foot patrol in Al Anbar province in Iraq. In Friday’s service the Reverend Nelson expressed a sentiment many other Vermont communities have felt since the war began.

(Nelson) Nine days ago the conflict in Iraq was for many of us something that went on over there’ someplace. Now it’s been brought home. It’s part of who we are.

(Zind) Three days after Dechen’s death, the war was brought home to another Vermont community. Sergeant Carlton Clark of Sharon was killed Sunday when the vehicle he was riding in was hit by a roadside bomb.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Springfield.

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