(Host) Friends, family, and admirers streamed into the Union Baptist Church in St. Johnsbury on Friday to pay tribute to Marine Corporal Ian Muller, who died during combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan on March 11.
VPR’s Charlotte Albright attended the wake, which was open to the public.
(Albright) In his short 22 years, Ian Muller made a lot of friends. As a military hero, he also earned the admiration of people he will never get to meet.
Over 50 of them were greeted one by one at the church door by Ian’s exhausted father Clifton.
He quietly thanked them for helping say good-bye to an intrepid son who, he said, was always volunteering for the most dangerous front-line duty because, his son said, "I’m good at it". The Marines say Ian was killed by an improvised explosive device, though his father says Ian was usually very good at detecting them in dangerous territory.
But on this day, it was a time for looking back on Ian’s active, enthusiastic life. The third of seven home-schooled siblings, he liked to play the viola that one brother made for him. And he loved soccer, as one of his close childhood friends from Danville, Jesse Murray, recalls:
(Murray) "He put a lot of passion in and he was good, so it was kind of a hand-in-hand thing."
(Albright) Murray says Muller brought that same passion to serving his country.
(Murray) "The Marines are like the elite of the elite so he wants to be with the best of the best and he wants to be known as the best of the best so, you know, more power to him."
(Albright) Muller’s large and close-knit family had been packing boxes of non-perishable foods and other goodies that were ready to be sent when he died. So they are sending them to his company anyway, hoping that his fellow marines will have something to make their hard work and deep grief a little easier to bear.
Some of the mourners who attended the wake never knew Ian but they had lost sons of their own to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After exchanging condolences with Clifton Muller at the door, Gold Star parents joined other mourners at the flag-draped coffin under red and white flowered wreaths. They all silently watched a slide show of Ian and his family, and then paid often tearful respects to his mother Susanne before walking back into a cloudy afternoon.
For VPR News, I’m Charlotte Albright in St. Johnsbury.