2,000 mourners, including Sen. John Kerry and Massachusetts
governor Deval Patrick, filled St. John the Baptist Church
in Quincy, Mass., on Saturday, for the funeral mass
for out lesbian Army Spc. Ciara Durkin, a 30-year-old
Army National Guard corporal who was found dead of a
gunshot wound to the head on September 28 at Bagram Air Base
Durkin, the first
LGBT soldier to die in Afghanistan or Iraq, was
remembered as quirky, as someone you couldn't help but love,
as "Ciara with the wild red hair," the refrain from a
poem written by her sister, Aine Durkin, that she
read, first in Gaelic and then in English.
Durkin moved from
Ireland to Massachusetts with her parents and younger
brother, Pierce Durkin, who is also gay, when she was
9. Mourners paid homage to both Durkin's Irish roots
and American citizenry, in song and in word. The
sermon, given by the Reverend Raymond Kiley, drew on
family remembrances of the fallen soldier and from Mitch
Albom, author of The Five People You Meet in Heaven.
girlfriend, Haidee Loreto, identified in the program as
Durkin's "best friend," spoke briefly during the
"Prayers of the Faithful" part of the service, as did
a few of Durkin's 18 nieces and nephews.
Pierce, gave the eulogy, recounting a time that he and
his sister went to an Alzheimer's clinic where she
volunteered and how much her being there meant to the
patients. One woman, said Pierce, approached Ciara and
said, "I don't know who you are, but I know I love
And this, he
added, was the beauty of Ciara.
"When you think
of her smiling face, you think of a time when she made
your day brighter. She was unselfish to a fault, and her
physical well-being didn't matter. It was our
well-being that made her happy," he said.
military service followed the religious ceremony, as
Durkin's body will be cremated and a portion of her ashes
taken home to Ireland, buried with full military
honors in Arlington, Va., and remain with her
family in Quincy. Major General Joseph Carter, the
adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard, handed
Durkin's mother, Angela, several posthumous
commendations awarded Durkin, including the rank of
ceremony, a gathering was held at the Quincy Yacht Club in
Hough's Neck. A motorcade of cars made its way slowly from
the church to the yacht club, passing signs at the
entrance of the town in English and in Gaelic that
thanked Durkin for her service. Outside of the Hough's
Neck Fire Department, firefighters stood with hands clasped
in front of them, and American flags lined the
Legal Defense Network has demanded a full and thorough
investigation into Durkin's death, which remains mysterious.
"Specialist Durkin's family deserves to know what happened,"
said Aubrey Sarvis, SLDN executive director, in a
statement last week. "Though we have no evidence, at
the moment, to conclude that this was a hate-motivated
crime, numerous questions demand that military leaders
must search for the answers."
The Department of
Defense says its investigation into her death,
described simply as a "non-combat-related incident," remains
ongoing. It has not disclosed whether a weapon was found
near her body, leaving some to speculate that Durkin
may have killed herself. But her family does not think
"She was home for
two weeks in September and helped paint our sister's
porch and my nephew's room and we talked about buying a
house together when she returned home," said Pierce.
"She was describing how she wanted a big bathroom and
a living room. She was in the best form and in the
best mood, so I do not think it's possible to be in
such a wonderful mood and to do a 180 like that."
Durkin was also
engaged to be married to Loreto, who has not yet spoken
to the media. (William Henderson, The Advocate)