NORTH ADAMS -- Main Street was walled with mourners holding flags Saturday, as hundreds of area residents gathered outside of the First Baptist Church to say their final farewells to U.S. Army Pfc. Michael DeMarsico II, 20, who was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan on Aug. 16.
"Michael is indeed home," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, in from Washington, D.C., during the service, summing up the spirit of the afternoon.
It was a day marked by similar tributes to the fallen young veteran -- from Lanza, the First Baptist Church's Rev. David Anderson, friends and family, and the supporting presence of area residents, military members and more.
More than 200 Patriot Guard Riders paid their respects by attending, along with federal, state and city officials, including Gov. Deval Patrick, U.S. Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown, state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, Mayor Richard Alcombright, City Councilor John Barrett III and City Council President Michael Bloom.
Before the service, the crowd looked on silently as DeMarsico's remains arrived in a horse-drawn caisson, casket draped in the American flag, ushered in by a six-motorcycle escort of Patriot Guard Riders.
"The outpouring of emotion brings tears to your eyes," Lanza said in an interview before the service. "[DeMarsico's] parents and the community can share the pride in the man they raised. If I can contribute some measure of comfort to [all of these people], then I've been helpful here."
Anderson, who officiated at the service, used the opportunity to shed light on the young man, having spent time with DeMarsico's family absorbing details of his personal life since the tragedy.
Before a nearly-packed, 725-capacity church, DeMarsico was again hailed as a hero and a leader, and point man of his platoon at only 20 years old.
But Anderson also sought to depict a young man devoted to family and friends, one he described as steadfast and selfless, kind and appreciative, playful and funny.
DeMarsico was revealed as a World War II history buff, an outdoorsman and an amateur photographer. He was one for the ladies, a novice snowboarder and a standout athlete in high school, "not about being the star but about being part of the team."
"As a boy, he wanted to be a soldier. As a soldier, he did not hide or retreat -- he asked for the toughest of duties out in point, doing what he did to protect his brothers, to save their lives and to protect ours," Anderson said.
"... He aspired to be a young man of honor, and then he went out and actually did it."
Over and over, Anderson returned to a single mantra: "We will not forget."
In the service's second address, Lanza highlighted DeMarsico's time in the military, saying the young man was "loved by his band of brothers," a soldier who "led from the front with courage and fortitude." DeMarsico, Lanza said, found and disarmed 15 improvised explosive devices before the one that took his life.
Lanza also shared details surrounding DeMarsico's death, including that he passed while in the arms of the platoon's medic, who said DeMarsico did not suffer.
"Thank you for sharing your son. Thank you for sharing your brother. Thank you for sharing your friend," Lanza said in closing.
DeMarsico was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Lanza is also in charge of Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
After the service, the crowd looked on as DeMarsico's casket was again loaded onto the caisson, to be brought to Southview Cemetery for burial with full military honors.
In an interview after the service, Barrett reflected on the tenor of the day.
"To see this happen is a very sad day for the city," Barrett said. "I remember when we built the new Veterans Memorial, knowing names would eventually have to be added, and I dreaded the day we'd have to bury one of our own. That day came far too soon."
Barrett praised the celebration of DeMarsico's life, saying "[most importantly], it brought the community together."
The officials in attendance, Barrett said, showed "great respect for the one who died on the battlefield." He spoke with Sen. Kerry before the service.
"[Kerry] said he's been attending [soldier's funerals] since Vietnam and is moved at every one. Each one gets harder, he said, and you never get immune to something like this.
"Both parents said they can never thank the community enough," Barrett said. "They were so moved by [the support]. We're all proud of Michael and we're proud of this."
Bloom praised city residents and government for what he saw as a moving response to an unfortunate event.
"No one has a book on how it's supposed to be done," Bloom said. "I think the mayor and his staff did an excellent job working with the family and organizing [the service] so it was the best it could be. To see all the family and friends who've gathered -- North Adams really showed its true colors today. It feels like the entire city was here."
To reach Phil Demers, email firstname.lastname@example.org.