Monday, February 09, 2009

Marine Lance Cpl. Kevin T. Preach

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Kevin T. Preach, 21, of Bridgewater, Mass.

LCpl. Preach was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Feb. 7, 2009 from wounds he received Jan. 24 while supporting combat operations in Farah province, Afghanistan.

Boston Globe -- BRIDGEWATER - Kevin T. Preach was a familiar face in this town, where friends, coaches, and teachers long believed he was destined to become a Marine. But the news that he died last Saturday from injuries suffered during a combat mission in Afghanistan has nevertheless shocked almost everyone.

"It's a hard thing to realize that he's dead," said Phil Moreau, Preach's youth football coach, standing in the front of Town Hall. "He was a kid who always had a smile on his face and never refused to do anything that he was told to do. And he always talked about becoming a Marine."

Moreau and other residents said the main topic of conversation in town in recent days has been Preach, the first service member from Bridgewater to die in combat since the Vietnam War.

Preach, a lance corporal gunner, was riding in a Humvee on Jan. 24, when an improvised explosive device detonated. He lost both legs, a hand, and was badly burned. Another Marine who was in the Humvee died. Preach had been in a medically induced coma until his death last Saturday.

His mother, Laurie Hayes, was in Texas yesterday, where he had been hospitalized.

Since World War I, the town has lost 42 service members. A plaque hanging in the tidy office of Roderick Walsh, the town's director of Veteran Services, bears their names. Soon, Walsh will take it down and add Preach's.

Walsh said there has been a surge in the number of young adults from Bridgewater who have signed up for the military in recent years. "Many have returned from combat, but sadly, this young man didn't," he said.

Brianna Kelliher, Preach's girlfriend of two years, said in a telephone interview that she is receiving an outpouring of support, but that as the days go by, adjusting to life without him will be difficult.

"I think it's going to be much harder when he's not the center of attention like he is now," she said. "So many people have been helping me, but I know that in a couple of months, I will still be thinking about him each and every day."

Kelliher said she last talked with Preach about two weeks before he was injured. It was a two-hour conversation that was almost cut short. "His phone card ran out of minutes and I was upset because I still wanted to talk with him, to tell him things."

But Preach called back about 10 minutes later. "We said our I-love-yous but we never said 'goodbye.' It was always, 'See you later.' "

At a diner not far away from Town Hall, several locals sat over coffee or ham and eggs and chatted about Preach.

David Waugh, 47, said he often saw Preach at Emma's Pub, a popular hangout. Waugh said he never saw Preach with alcohol, only a soft drink, which he always ordered with a hamburger.

"It's just the saddest thing in the world, for someone so young to die like that," Waugh said. "Everybody knew he was in pretty bad shape, but when he died I think a lot of people were shocked."

Moreau said his son, who at 21 is the same age as Preach, will deploy to Afghanistan this spring.

Moreau's son and Preach bumped into each other at a restaurant in South Carolina two weeks before Preach went to Afghanistan last November.

"They instantly recognized each other from back home, and they became friends, just like that," Moreau said.

He admitted that as the days go by and his own son's deployment draws nearer, there might be some sleepless nights.

"You hope you don't get that call, that you don't look out your window and see someone in uniform with a sad face walking to your door."

Marine Lance Cpl. Kevin T. Preach died 02/07/09 from wounds received in battle on 01/24/09.

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