A funeral service with full military honors today for a Western Massachusetts soldier killed earlier this month by an attack in Afghanistan included family, friends, and U.S. and state officials.
Under a grey sky and drizzling rains in Dalton, American flags lining Main Street welcomed the arrival of the body of 24-year old Specialist Mitchell Daehling, a Dalton native who was killed, along with two of his fellow soldiers, earlier this month in an attack while serving in Afghanistan.
In addition to the family and friends of the fallen soldier who came to the St. Agnes Catholic Church, members of the local community stood outside, along with several Patriot Guard Riders, a group of veteran motorcyclists who attend military funerals.
Military personnel in full uniform, local police, the Dalton American Legion, and several elected officials also attended.
Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren said that the funeral held on Memorial Day weekend served as a painful reminder of those who have died serving the United States.
"It is the time every year where we come together to honor all of those that have served. We start this weekend with a very painful reminder that those who serve agree that they will put everything up for us," said Warren.
Congressman Richard Neal, a Democrat of the first district, said that the funeral service was heartbreaking, but showed the strength of the Daehling family.
"I've seen some powerful moments in a very long career in government, but when Mitch's widow today got up and spoke not only of her regard for him as a husband but for his role in the military it certainly again one of the most powerful moments I've witnessed in a long career," said Neal.
Second Berkshire District State Representative Paul Mark said that he also attended the memorial service held for Daehling’s family Thursday evening.
"It's such a terrible devastation for any family to lose someone that young. I went to the wake last night and just talking to the mother and the father and the wife, it's just devastating. It's just absolutely terrible," said Mark.
According to the state Department of Veterans’ Services, Daehling was the 46th soldier from Massachusetts killed in Afghanistan since the start of the war. Last August, North Adams held a funeral service for 20-year-old Private First Class Michael DeMarsico, also killed in Afghanistan.
State Senator Benjamin Downing said that service for Daehling was the fourth military funeral he’s attended since he became a state legislator seven years ago.
"There's no action that we can take in any way fill the void that's in their lives but if us being here helps in any way, then we want to do it," said Downing, "and the smallest way is simply to say thank you."
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick also attended the funeral.
At the service, Daehling’s family was presented with military medals including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for Valor.
Daehling’s body will be buried in Lewiston, Idaho beside his grandfather, Kenneth Sander, a veteran of the Korean War.