Northeast Times

Remembering a hero

Friends and fam­ily bid farewell to Petty Of­ficer 1st Class Mi­chael Strange, who was killed in Afgh­anistan earli­er this month.

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). ••

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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