DERRY — Fallen Marine Michael Geary always wanted to be on point during combat operations, something repeated by those who had served with him during a Memorial Day ceremony where a bridge was named in his honor.
It was while leading a patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province that Lance Cpl. Geary was killed on Dec. 8, 2010.
Geary died doing what he loved and believed in, as noted by those who knew and served with him.
“He loved being a Marine, absolutely,” said Navy Corpsman Thomas Rushing, a medic who was the first on scene and the first person to attend to a wounded Geary. Rushing said the group had emerged from a line of trees onto an open field during the operation. About halfway across the field, Geary was shot, Rushing said.
It was difficult to pinpoint the enemy in the aftermath of the shooting, said Rushing, whose main job was to treat Geary and prepare him to be evacuated.
“It was just kind of chaotic,” Rushing said. “There was a lot of stuff going on — trying to get him off the ground and coordinate a helicopter to come and get him.”
Rushing had flown in for the ceremony, along with a group of several other men who were serving with Geary on the day he was killed. Coming from across the country, they all made a special trip to attend the ceremony to name the small bridge over Beaver Brook on Route 102 for their fallen friend.
Geary was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Geary grew up in Derry and graduated from Pinkerton Academy in 2009.
Gov. Maggie Hassan also attended the ceremony and spoke of Geary’s courage under fire and the ultimate sacrifice he made.
“I’m truly honored to be here today to honor a New Hampshire hero,” Hassan said, adding that the debt the country owes Geary and the other fallen can never be repaid.
“Lance Cpl. Geary epitomized the service and sacrifice of generations of American heroes,” Hassan said, as she explained that since the American Revolution, more than 1 million men and women have died serving the country.
“Every one of them loved and was loved,” Hassan said. “Every one of them had cherished dreams. But they left their loved ones, they put their own lives and dreams aside and they paid the ultimate sacrifice so that every one of us has the opportunity to be safe and to be free and to pursue our dreams and to be with those we love.”
She praised the work of State Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, the prime sponsor of the bill to name the bridge after Geary. She also thanked local officials such as Town Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores for helping with the project.
Also on hand for the ceremony were Geary’s family members, including his uncle, Angus Douglas.
His nephew had worked tirelessly to become a Marine, Douglas said. In Afghanistan, he was assigned to the first fire team.
“The tip of the spear — these men were in harm’s way on a daily basis and the courage and nerve they had to display was something most of us will never know,” Douglas said. “Sadly, for all of us remaining, Michael’s life was cut short, far too short, because he was willing to take those risks for others.”
Speaking on behalf of the family, Douglas said they have been deeply touched by the efforts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the state and local officials.
“We hope that every traveler who passes across this bridge might know that a hero lives here in Derry,” Douglas said. “They might pause to remember all of those who went before them and will go after them; who loved their country, loved their community, loved their family and loved their brothers who served beside them.”