ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Letting Go, Nearly 2 Years After Loss
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Before 1st Lt. Mark H. Dooley left for Iraq, he gave his father a letter for his family to open if he didn't come home.
"The best way to pay respect is to value why a sacrifice was made," he wrote. "Remember that my leaving was in the service of something that we loved."
Yesterday, more than 100 mourners gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to pay tribute to Dooley nearly two years after he died. On Sept. 19, 2005, Dooley, 27, of Wallkill, N.Y., was killed in Ramadi, Iraq, when a makeshift bomb exploded near his patrol vehicle, according to the Defense Department.
The crowd followed a horse-drawn caisson as it carried Dooley's cremated remains to his grave, where they were placed in front of two framed collages tracing his life. One collage focused on Dooley in his youth; the other showcased him as a young adult.
Dooley's letter, which was posted online, was quoted by President Bush when he spoke at Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day 2006. Now Dooley was being laid to rest at the same cemetery where the president had invoked his name, becoming the 349th member of the military killed in Iraq to be buried there.
Although Dooley was killed nearly two years ago, his family did not want to let him go, his mother, Marion, told the Brattleboro (Vt.) Reformer.
"Mark has been with us, and we couldn't stand to part with him," she said. "Now he is going to a place where we know they will take care of him forever."
She told the newspaper that the day Bush referred to Dooley, family members decided he should be buried at Arlington. They took him there two days shy of what would have been his 29th birthday.
Dooley was a member of the Vermont Army National Guard's 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain), 42nd Infantry Division, based at Jericho, Vt. Two soldiers from another infantry division were killed alongside Dooley. They were Sgt. Michael Egan, 36, of Philadelphia and Spec. William V. Fernandez, 37, of Reading, Pa.
In Dooley's letter to his family, he praised his father's example and apologized to his mother for his absence, telling them that "time will ease pain." He wrote that he didn't leave them in the service of something abstract, such as a flag or a foreign government's success, but for "our sacred honor."
Dooley graduated from Wallkill Senior High School and Norwich University, a Vermont military college. He was a law enforcement officer in Vermont, first with the Windham County Sheriff's Department, then with the Wilmington Police Department.
"The guy always had a smile on his face," Wilmington Police Chief Joseph Szarejko said. "He was very capable, confident in his abilities, was great around the office. Everybody liked him."
Dooley had let the police department know that he could be called up, because he was a "stand-up kind of guy," Szarejko said. "Mark was the kind of guy who was worth waiting for."