(Host) About 500 people turned out in St. Albans Wednesday to honor and remember National Guard Sergeant Kevin Sheehan. The Milton resident was killed in combat last week in Iraq.
VPR’s John Dillon reports:
(Sound of church bells ringing.)
(Dillon) The Holy Angels Catholic Church in St. Albans was packed with mourners. They remembered Kevin Sheehan as a family man who loved simple pleasures: sports, romping with his young children, decorating the Christmas tree for the holidays.
Sheehan was 36 when he was killed last week in a mortar attack south of Baghdad. He was the ninth person with Vermont ties to die in combat in Iraq. His commanding officer, Captain Alfred Bellucci, described him as a dedicated soldier who always looked out for the others in his unit.
(Bellucci) “When some of the youngest soldiers came to me and expressed fears about going to Iraq, I leaned on Kevin for help. I specifically asked Kevin to watch over them. And as is characteristic of Kevin [he said], ‘Hey sir, I already know that. I got you covered, sir.'”
(Dillon) Sheehan leaves a wife and two young children. During one of the eulogies, Sheehan’s daughter Alyson clambered into the arms of a soldier who stood by her mother’s side.
Bellucci recalled how Sheehan gracefully balanced his family and military life. He said he saw both sides of Sheehan’s life at a ceremony last January before his unit was sent to Iraq.
(Bellucci) “Now in the military, I’m used to seeing Kevin as a strapping, hard-working solider. This time, Kevin came in carrying a baby bag and Alyson, and Nathaniel in between Heather and Kevin’s legs. Now you may think these two images of Kevin are different. But the unique thing was that they weren’t. Kevin was totally at ease militarily with his commanding officer, while at the same time being a loving father and attentive husband, during a very scary and emotional time. And, of course, he was smiling.”
(Dillon) Sheehan was a project manager for a construction firm and did design and engineering work on building projects. A neighbor in Milton said Sheehan was always ready with friendship and a helping hand around the house.
Sheehan’s wife Heather drew some quiet laughs from the congregation when she recalled her husband’s taste for Mountain Dew, and his boyish pleasure in the Christmas holidays.
(Heather Sheehan) “I remember our first Christmas together when he stood in the living room right after Thanksgiving and he was jumping up and down whining: I want the tree now! If that gives you any idea…”
(Dillon) Heather Sheehan said she wanted to paint a picture of who her husband was:
(Heather Sheehan) “He loved to tell stories of his mom and dad. He loved rainbows, as they reminded him of his father. He loved to stay up late and sleep in. He loved to hold his children and rock them to sleep…”
(Dillon) Kevin Sheehan was buried at the Milton Village Cemetery.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in St. Albans.