Cardinal Justin Rigali, celebrating the funeral Mass of U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael J. Strange, called on everyone inside the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul to pray for Strange to enjoy eternal peace with God.
In his homily at the Aug. 18 Mass, Rigali told the crowd that Strange was a young, innocent, peace-loving member of a generation that has had to endure violent, evil-fueled conflicts around the world.
Strange, a 25-year-old Wissinoming native, was killed Aug. 6 when the helicopter he was riding in was shot down by insurgents in eastern Afghanistan.
All 38 people on board were killed by the rocket-propelled grenade. The group consisted of 30 U.S. troops, seven Afghani commandos and a civilian interpreter.
The copter was en route to assist special operation forces searching for a Taliban leader. The 30 American deaths marked the single biggest loss of life since the war started a decade ago in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S.
Mourners at the cathedral included Mayor Michael Nutter, U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, uniformed military personnel and police colleagues of Strange’s mother.
Nutter and Gov. Tom Corbett ordered all city and state flags be lowered to half-staff in memory of the highly decorated Strange, who joined the Navy in August 2004 and went on to serve a tour in Iraq and three tours in Afghanistan.
After the Mass, a band played military anthems as the crowd made the short walk to Logan Square for a ceremony.
Navy Rear Adm. William E. Leigher presented American flags to Strange’s parents, Charlie and Betsy, and his fiancee, Breanna Hostetler.
Betsy Strange received a wooden box containing her son’s ashes, some of which will be sent to Arlington National Cemetery, where the family will hold a private service.
The event also included a 21-gun salute by Navy sailors and a bugler playing Taps. A reception followed at Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5.
Strange, a graduate of St. Bartholomew and North Catholic High School, is survived by his parents, younger brother, two younger sisters, niece, fiancee and other relatives.
Donations in his memory can be made to either Neads-Canines for Combat Veterans, P.O. Box 213, West Boylston, MA 01583 (www.neads.org) or Navy SEAL Foundation, P.O. Box 5965, Virginia Beach, VA 23471 (www.NSWfoundation.org). ••