Justin Garvey buried in Fair Haven

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(Host) Army Sergeant and Vermont native Justin Garvey was buried today in Fair Haven. The 23-year-old was a member of the 101st Airborne Division, and he was the third Vermonter to die in Iraq since U-S troops began fighting there in March. Garvey graduated from Proctor High School in 1998. He spent three years in the Vermont National Guard before joining the regular Army.

Reporter Fred Thys has this remembrance:

(Thys) Robert Bliss is an elementary school principal in Rutland, Vermont, now. On the wall of his office is a picture of the soccer team from the small town up the road that he coached seven years ago. He will not forget one of the boys in that picture – Justin Garvey.

(Robert Bliss) “In the 1996 season, we won the Vermont state championship and Justin played a very large role on that team. Many of the kids looked to him for leadership.”

(Thys) In Garvey’s high school yearbook, beneath a picture of him in a flannel shirt and canvas jacket, is a quote: “Respect is not just given, it needs to earned.” Coach Bliss recalls the moment when he realized that his team would become state champions. It was the day of the finals.

(Bliss) “And he said: ‘Coach, we’re going to win today.’ And I knew there was still a lot of soccer to be played, and I didn’t want to be overconfident, so I said: ‘Let’s just play the game.’ And he wouldn’t release my hand. He pulled me in closely, and took a tight grip on my hand and said: ‘I said: We’re going to win today.’ And I knew with Justin in the middle in the back he would give everything and would not allow anything else to happen.”

(Thys) Garvey enrolled in the Vermont National Guard in his junior year of high school. Bliss says Garvey was always looking out for something greater than himself.

Garvey’s parents were divorced. He grew up with his mother and her second husband, whom he considered a father.

(Bliss) “His father was killed in a car accident when he was in high school, and Justin had to step up at home and take the leadership role in many ways, and he did that with great pride.”

(Thys) Garvey’s death has hit his home town hard. At the high school, the flag hangs at half mast. From the principal’s office, you can see a green ridge behind the simple clapboard houses. In high school, Garvey liked to hunt and fish and ride in a four-wheeler with Kate, the girl next door who became his wife. It’s raining. Garvey’s former teammate, Ray Hickey, takes shelter in the new gazebo in the park along the banks of the Otter River. He has lived here most of his life.

(Ray Hickey) “It’s a small town. There’s not a lot of people here. Graduating class is somewhere between 30-40 kids. There’s a couple of corner stores. It’s kind of nice little American town. State’s largest waterfall is here. Otherwise, we have the world’s largest marble exhibit, a castle is located in town, and we also have a marble bridge, a former quarry for marble. The town was built around the marble industry, really.”

(Thys) Proctor was once home to the world’s largest marble company. Large blocks of marble lie near the railroad tracks. The United Supreme Court is built of marble from Proctor. And much of Proctor, is, too the fire house and the high school. By the marble bridge is a large public library. In the gazebo across the river, Ray Hickey remembers Garvey as a kind older teammate.

(Ray Hickey) “He was a really good guy. He was always nice, especially to the freshmen. He understood that even though we had to carry the bags and everything that sometimes we just couldn’t carry everything and he would help out with that. He was always willing to offer his seat on the bus to anybody who needed it.”

(Thys) In his high-school yearbook, Garvey wrote that he liked laying out under the stars relaxing and thinking about the future. In the yearbook, his classmates predicted: “Justin Garvey becomes a general in the U.S. Army.”

(Host) Justin Garvey is survived by his wife Kate, his parents and two siblings. This profile was reported by Fred Thys of WBUR in Boston.

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