Cape Cod Soldier Dies in Iraq

Mark Vecchione, of Eastham, Mass., was the kind of kid who liked to cut school to go fishing. He joined the Army after graduation, and trained to be a gunner on a tank. Sgt. Vecchione, 25, was killed last week by a roadside bomb soon after he rejoined his unit in Iraq. Brian Morris of member-station WCAI reports.

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Also last week, 25-year old Sgt. Mark Vecchione of Eastham, Massachusetts became the first soldier from Cape Cod to die in combat in Iraq. His tank hit an improvised explosive device in Ramadi, Northwest of Baghdad. Sgt. Vecchione had been home just a few weeks ago. Now his family and friends are mourning a man they remember as kind, caring, and committed to his country.

From member station WCAI, Brian Morris has this remembrance.

Mr. BRIAN MORRIS (Reporter, WCAI): Al Sistero(ph) has known Mark Vecchione since childhood. Sistero says he and Mark were both typical Cape Cod kids. They used to cut classes to go fishing.

Mr. AL SISTERO (Friend of Mark Vecchione): And I had walked down to the pond right by where Mark lived and I lived - we lived about a mile from each other -and I thought I was the only one with that clever idea. And I look over and I hear some rustling in the bushes and Mark pokes his head out, and we both just started laughing. We sat there all afternoon fishing instead of going to school.

Mr. MORRIS: Vecchione joined the Army in 2001, and was thinking of making a career in the military. He was home on a two-week leave from Iraq over the fourth of July. During that time he hung out with friends and family and enjoyed being back on Cape Cod.

Mr. SISTERO: We just grilled out, pretty much almost every night and had a couple of sodas, and just talked about life and how good it was for him to be back home.

Mr. MORRIS: Lauren(ph) Bader(ph) also goes back a long way with Mark Vecchione. They went to middle school together and attended the same Catholic church. She worried about the hazards of his job as lead gunner in an Abrams tank.

Ms. LAUREN BADER (Friend of Mark Vecchione): I tried not to talked about it until, you know, the last night that I saw him and just told him be careful, and he acted like he wasn't afraid of anything. It's definitely his calling, you know. I found comfort in that, saying goodbye.

Mr. MORRIS: Outside the Eastham Post Office where Vecchione's mother works, a notice on the front door reads, It is with great sadness that we report the tragic death of Mark Vecchione, son of our window clerk Cyndi DesLauriers. He was killed in action in Iraq. DesLauriers is taking time off from work to deal with her loss. Snapshots of Mark are still scotch taped to the side of her computer. In one, her son poses smiling in front of his tank, one foot propped up near the heavy treads.

DesLauriers' coworker, Mark Godfrey(ph) says everyone coming in has offered kind word.

Mr. MARK GODFREY (Coworker): Especially all of the people who have come in and shared their sympathy with either cards or reading that sign on the door. Yeah, I think it has touched people quite a bit, and they've even said, yeah, that really hits home now.

Mr. MORRIS: Al Sistero's brother Aaron(ph) recalls that Mark's friends had a parting gift for him when he left to head back overseas.

Mr. AARON SISTERO (Al Sistero's Brother): We had sent him off with a big old shark jaw to put on his tank and just kind of wished him well, and said we hoped to see him next December.

Mr. MORRIS: Mark Vecchione was six months away from completing his second tour of duty in Iraq.

For NPR News, this is Brian Morris, in Eastham, Massachusetts.

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