A Mother's Son and the Marines

AN Irish American mother who lost her son in Iraq last year used the $20,000 death benefit she received from the government to fly her son's whole platoon from North Carolina to Boston to participate in the St. Patrick's Day parade in her son's honor.Maureen O'Haire, a 51-year-old widow, lost her 20-year-old son Walter, or Wally to his family, on May 9, 2007 to the war on terror. "It takes people to defend what we got and my son did just that," O'Haire told the Irish Voice. "God has a date for us at the beginning when we come and when we end and what we make of our lives is up to us. We can sit and whine, or we can do something and Wally did something. He served his country proudly and died for it."Months after her son was killed in Iraq, O'Haire and some of her children went to North Carolina to attend a memorial Mass held in memory of Wally."They were wonderful boys. It meant so much to me and my family to meet them all," said O'Haire about the Marines. It was Walter's older brother William who asked his mother if they could use the money they received from his brother's death to fly the Marines up to Boston. O'Haire, whose grandparents on both sides came from Ireland, thought it was a wonderful idea, and upon returning she made a few calls and got the ball rolling.St. Patrick's weekend was the chosen time to bring the 25 Marines to where Walter grew up for one main reason. "Walter always loved the parade and everything Irish," said his mother. "He wanted to attend Notre Dame and most of all go to Ireland someday." Unfortunately Wally was never afforded the opportunity, but as O'Haire sees it her son is "probably over Ireland now looking down on it."O'Haire felt that by bringing the boys to Boston and organizing them to march in the famous Boston parade, it not only would show the Marines they had wide support, it would also heal other people who may have lost their son or daughter in combat. "It was about showing these men and women that not only do I care, but other people care too and are proud of the job the guys do. You're not drafted. These are guys and girls who decide to go in on their own," said a passionate O'Haire, explaining that Walter joined because of the 9/11 attacks and he wanted to make his father Tom, who died in 2005, proud.Although O'Haire admits that sometimes she gets sad and lonely after Wally's passing, she said that her Irish upbringing has made her strong. "When I was growing up my mother said get on with it and if you can't then get help and then get on with it," she says.On Friday, March 14 O'Haire went to the airport with Wally's other siblings to greet his platoon, the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment who were all based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Accompanied by wives and girlfriends, the marines couldn't wait to get the party started.O'Haire extended her love to the Marines like she has done over the course of her life to her family - her nine children, four of whom are adopted, and to the 50 children she fostered throughout her married life. The loving mother opened up her home to her son's comrades, and the weekend started with a bang."I gave them all shamrocks, Irish hats and shamrock mugs and told them to have fun with them but to make sure they were all in their dress uniforms for the parade on Sunday," said O'Haire. They attended parties and frequented the local bars in South Boston. They went to a Mass in Walter's honor and all attended the St. Patrick's Day breakfast at the Boston Convention Center, but most of all they spent hours with Wally's family sharing stories about the man who brought them all together.For O'Haire and her family the special moment for them was approaching. On Sunday afternoon, the Marines took their place in the St. Patrick's Day parade and proudly marched along Broadway holding a memorial banner for Walter. "This was a very emotional time for me and my family," said O'Haire, who stood with her sons and daughters watching the parade from the same spot Wally viewed it the year before."Having the Marines in the parade showed people watching that we need to support our troops no matter what our politics are. These are just regular men and women who protect us all of the time. They deserve every bit of support we can give them," she said.The Boston St. Patrick's celebrations will be the last celebrations the Marines will have for a while. They are currently back in North Carolina in a camp where they are undergoing survival training. "I won't hear from them for a little while and that is hard," O'Haire said. Walter's two brothers, Mathew, 31, and Thomas, 23, are both waiting to join the Marines. Her oldest son William served in the Navy some years ago. When asked how she felt about her two sons joining, O'Haire said she supports them 100 percent. "I will support my children in any decision they make as long as it's not law breaking," she says.O'Haire hopes to continue the tradition she set up this past year and bring Marines to Boston to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in memory of her son and all the fallen heroes every year. Anyone who wishes to correspond with O'Haire may do at the Marine Fund, PO Box 641, Rockland, MA 02370 or alternatively at themarinefund2008@yahoo.

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