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Hero laid to rest: Family, community pay respects to 1st. Sgt. David Quinn in Temple

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 05. 2018 8:46PM
U.S. Marines conduct the flag-folding ceremony for 1st Sgt. David H. Quinn, a Marine who died in World War II and was assumed missing at sea. Nearly 75 years later, his remains were identified and he was buried Saturday with full military honors at Miller Cemetery in Temple. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

TEMPLE - Nearly 75 years after his World War II death on the beach of a tiny Pacific island, David Harvey Quinn's remains came back home Saturday to the warm embrace of residents of this small, rural town.

Quinn's return for burial in Temple's Miller Cemetery with full military honors was a determined labor of love for Paul Quinn of Jaffrey.

He's the nephew who spent nearly 18 years trying to locate Quinn's body after learning that the uncle he never met might not have "died at sea" as his parents and relatives back in New Hampshire had been told.

Quinn's namesake, nephew David Quinn of Manchester, a retired Army National Guard aviator, saluted his brother Paul's refusal to stop searching.

"He really did yeoman's work. If I ever go on the lam, I would not want you looking for me," David Quinn quipped during a eulogy for his uncle at the Congregational Church of Temple.

This was a day of mixed emotions that included joy for residents of this town of fewer than 1,500 because one of their heroes, struck down in the prime of his life at 24, was finally coming back to them.

Prior to retirement, James L. Haddix was pastor of this Temple church for 19 years during the turbulent Vietnam War and its aftermath.

Ruth Quinn, sister-in-law of David H. Quinn, holds the American flag from his casket. Flanking her at the burial are her sons and the fallen Marine's nephews, Paul, left, and David Quinn. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

"There were 42 Temple men who had enlisted in World War II; 39 of them came home alive," Haddix said. "This town would not ever forget the three who didn't."

First Sgt. Quinn was killed by an enemy shell on Nov. 20, 1943, during the first wave of the assault on the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. The brutal death toll - 1,000 Marines and soldiers - sparked controversy back in the U.S. about the war, Haddix said.

"He is restored to his waiting family, to all of us who have somehow intervened in this village that made him who he was," Haddix said.

David Quinn recalled visiting the Marine training base in Dunedin, Fla., where his uncle David had received amphibious troop warfare skills.

"It was just shocking to me and it made a connection," Quinn said, his voice cracking with emotion, "that I was in the same building where he went through before shipping out."

On a sun-splashed, breezy spring morning, the white, wood-framed church was packed to capacity, at least two-thirds of it with residents, parishioners and well-wishers, most not known to the Quinn family.

"All of you are a testament to what this nation thinks about its warriors," David Quinn said. "It's a very, very special country that we live in, like no other that would make this possible." 

Dee Moore of Manchester was flag captain for the Patriot Guard Riders who lined a long row of motorcycle-riding volunteers from the church to the cemetery.

Paul Quinn spent nearly 18 years trying to locate his uncle's body after learning the Marine might not have died at sea. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

"These military funerals are all special, but this one is so bittersweet and a celebration at the same time. He's finally coming home," Moore said.

Marine Capt. Mike Seabolt is Quinn's great-great-grandnephew and is stationed in Hawaii.

Seabolt got the assignment to be Quinn's personal detail, guarding his remains on the entire journey from Honolulu to Temple.

"I've been wearing this uniform for 17 hours straight; I think it's time for a dry clean," he joked.

"It's been an interesting and eye-opening experience to see the whole process. This is certainly one of the things I will take away from my entire Marine career."

At the cemetery, two members of a Marine color guard tightly folded the American flag that had been draped over the coffin to present to Quinn's sister-in-law, Ruth Quinn, 92, while the Westford (Mass.) Pipes and Drums band played "Amazing Grace."

"He was such a handsome man," Mrs. Quinn said. Later she added, "His parents were so upset that he was lost; we now have him back and that means a lot."

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