Soldiers' Deaths Shake Cape Cod Town The deaths last week of two local service members from Cape Cod has stunned the small town of Mashpee. Within a day of each other, Army Pfc. Paul Conlon was killed in Afghanistan and Marine Corps Pfc. Daniel McGuire was killed in Iraq.
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Soldiers' Deaths Shake Cape Cod Town

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Soldiers' Deaths Shake Cape Cod Town

Soldiers' Deaths Shake Cape Cod Town

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

When a town has only 14,000 people and it loses two of its residents in Afghanistan and Iraq in the space of two days, many people in town feel that personally. The town in question is on Cape Cod, a vacation spot where America's wars had seemed far away. Sean Corcoran of member station WCAI reports from Mashpee, Massachusetts.

Unidentified Man: (Singing in foreign language)

SEAN CORCORAN: Mashpee is known as the Indian Town, the ancestral home of Cape Cod's Wampanoag tribe. So when community members gathered to mourn two men who are not tribe members at a candlelight vigil Monday night, it was the rhythm of the native drum and the voice of a lone Wampanoag Indian that carried across the near-silent crowd of more than 500 people.

Unidentified Man: (Singing in foreign language)

CORCORAN: Twenty-year-old Toni Cafua(ph) attended the vigil with a dozen friends, most wearing bandannas around their heads just like Army Private Paul Conlon used to wear on his. Cafua says Conlon's death is easier to take when surrounded by people who knew him.

Mr. TONI CAFUA: It's just, we get to think about the good times. When I'm by myself, I think of the bad times and it's just a horrible mess. I mean, we've all had good times with Paul, all of us. I mean, he made us laugh since day one. He was just that dude.

CORCORAN: Twenty-one-year-old Paul Conlon was a 2005 graduate of Mashpee High School, and he was killed Friday morning in Afghanistan when the Humvee he was riding on struck a roadside bomb. The news of his passing came less than a day after Mashpee residents learned that 19-year-old Marine Private Daniel McGuire, a 2007 graduate of the high school, was killed on Thursday by small arms fire while on guard duty near Fallujah. The loss stunned family and friends of the young man, who just a short time ago was starring in school plays and talking about one day becoming a kindergarten teacher. It's not clear if the two soldiers knew each other, but because their time at the high school overlapped, they had many mutual friends.

Mr. CALEB CLARK: When I first heard about it, I just didn't believe it. Like, I don't know, it still hasn't hit me yet.

CORCORAN: Fifteen-year-old Caleb Clark said the deaths have compelled him to think more seriously about America's wars.

Mr. CLARK: I - like I always said send the troops home, like when people said that I'd agree. But I never really like understood what it meant until now, 'cause I never lost anybody I knew until now.

CORCORAN: On Monday, the house where McGuire grew up was quiet, with his younger brothers milling around, uncertain just how to grieve or make themselves useful. His mother, Kay McGuire, says she keeps remembering a song the family often sang together when he was young.

Ms. KAY MCGUIRE: It was song that he - we all used to sing called "Heroes." And part of is, you know, the child wants to be a hero. I want to be a hero. And then the adult comes in and says, but, you know, heroes die. And so, we didn't want Daniel to be - he was a hero, anyways, to us. We loved him, and he was willing to do this, but we didn't want him to die. But it's not a loss, because Daniel knew what he was fighting for and he knew that freedom for generations in this country has only been bought by lives.

CORCORAN: Daniel McGuire's father Mark says his son's death still doesn't seem real to him, but perhaps, he says, that will change when he goes to retrieve Daniel's remains for the funeral on Saturday.

For NPR News, I'm Sean Corcoran in Mashpee.

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