Home Wasn't Far from Fallen Marine's Heart Marine Lance Cpl. Walter O'Haire was supposed to turn 21 this week. But family and friends spent his birthday attending a funeral for the fallen Marine in Rockland, Mass. O'Haire was killed in combat in Anbar province, after only 6 weeks in Iraq. Bianca Vazquez Toness from member station WBUR in Boston reports.
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Home Wasn't Far from Fallen Marine's Heart

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Home Wasn't Far from Fallen Marine's Heart

Home Wasn't Far from Fallen Marine's Heart

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The U.S. military report six American soldiers and an interpreter were killed in a roadside bombing in Baghdad yesterday. A seventh American died in another explosion south of this city. We take a few moments now to remember a Marine killed earlier. Lance Corporal Walter O'Haire had been in Iraq for just six weeks. He was cremated May 15th, the day he would have turned 21.

Reporter Bianca Vazquez Toness from WBUR in Boston has this remembrance.

BIANCA VAZQUEZ TONESS: Before Walter O'Haire went to Iraq, he was stationed in North Carolina, more than 800 miles away from home. But he still drove to Massachusetts every weekend.

Ms. MAUREEN O'HAIRE (Mother of Lance Corporal Walter O'Haire): Other than the fact he kept bringing all these Marines home, it was almost like Walter wasn't gone, because he was constantly calling and was constantly here.

TONESS: His mom, Maureen O'Haire, says Walter or Wally as they call him, missed the warmth of their crowded home. She and her husband had five kids, adopted four more and over time, fostered more than 50. Wally was in the middle of the nine.

Ms. O'HAIRE: He was different, he was my stubborn one.

TONESS: He was also the most mischievous. When Wally would drive home from North Carolina, he'd often drop off friends in Manhattan and call his mom to make sure she knew he was in New York City, a place that terrified her.

Ms. O'HAIRE: I'm like, Wally, why do you do this to me? I have anxiety. He says, you have anxiety because you choose to.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TONESS: As Maureen remembers Wally; she fiddles with a chain around her neck that holds two heart-shaped pendants. One is for her husband Tommy, who died two years ago. The other is in memory of one of their foster children. Now, she's sharing stories about Wally with her cousin, Patty Anne King(ph). Together they laugh more than they cry.

Ms. PATTY ANNE KING (Cousin of the Mother of Lance Corporal Walter O'Haire): He's one of those guys that you look at and say, hmm, that's somebody I'd like to party with, you know, he had a great personality.

TONESS: King says Wally called her about once a week after he joined the military a year and half ago. She says the family was surprised when stubborn Wally became an obedient Marine.

Ms. KING: I couldn't believe it was coming out of Wally's mouth that they're making him clean and run. So I'm thinking, you can't get Wally to clean anything, you know, but, you know, if the Marines ordered to clean it, it would be spic and span.

TONESS: When it was time for Wally to go to Iraq at the end of March, Walter left his car with his mom and didn't plan to make any more weekend pilgrimages to Massachusetts. But at the last minute, he rented a car and drove up anyway.

Ms. O'HAIRE: Are you really going to stay in the service or are you going to go AWOL on me? Why do you keep coming home? I was teasing him. He said, Ma, I'm going over there, I'm going to do what's right, but I like to be here.

TONESS: Maureen supported her son going to Iraq. But her daughter Margaret, Wally's older sister, didn't want him to go.

Ms. MARGARET O'HAIRE (Sister of Lance Corporal Walter O'Haire: My friend's husband just came home from Iraq. And last week I said to him, is my baby going to be ok? And he's, like, he'll be fine, princess. I promise, he'll be home. He's, like, the war is almost over. He hid from me yesterday.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TONESS: His mom got word that Wally was killed while on foot patrol in Al-Anbar province.

Ms. O'HAIRE: He had full gear on from what they say, and he just happened to get a bullet in the back of the head, just somehow where the material wouldn't have protected. Very unfortunate.

TONESS: Maureen O'Haire plans to keep an urn with Wally's ashes in a window at the front of their home.

For NPR News, I'm Bianca Vazquez Toness.

(Soundbite of music)

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