The emotional homecoming of a 21-year-old Plymouth paratrooper who died in Afghanistan early this month culminated Friday morning in a final farewell for Army Sgt. Benjamin Sherman.
PLYMOUTH – The emotional homecoming of a 21-year-old paratrooper who died in Afghanistan early this month comes to an official end today with his funeral service and burial in his hometown of Plymouth.
But the mourning will continue long after the ceremonies are over. On Thursday night, hundreds of people paid their respects to Army Sgt. Benjamin Sherman and his family during a wake at the Richard Davis Funeral Home, where a line of mourners continued to grow even after visitation hours had ended.
An American flag outside had been lowered to half-staff. A memorial, similar to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, had been erected next to the road, the names of American service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan illuminated by the headlights of passing traffic.
“Patriotism is in its full splendor here,” said Robert W. Hayes outside the funeral home, a maroon beret of the 82nd Airborne Division on his head. “It’s as it should be.”
Hayes said he had never met Sherman but was serving as an ambassador of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, to which the soldier belonged.
Sixteen soldiers from Fort Bragg, N.C., the home of the 82nd, traveled for the wake and funeral, he said.
Inside, two paratroopers flanked Sherman’s flag-draped coffin, said Janet Murphy, a friend of Sherman’s mother, Denise.
There were poster boards covered with photographs of Sherman throughout his life, Murphy said, and the faces in the crowded funeral home included several former classmates from Plymouth South High School.
Returning to his car, Paul Osberg, a teacher who had Sherman in a class during Sherman’s senior year, recalled the soldier speaking to students while on leave between his two tours in Afghanistan.
Listening to the paratrooper – just a few years older than them but already a war veteran – was “mind-altering” for the students, Osberg said. The class wanted to know about the weapons and the danger, and whether he ever was scared.
“Ben answered every question,” Osberg said, adding that Sherman urged them to work hard for a good education. “People are showing the ultimate respect tonight for Ben and what he did.”
Sherman died Nov. 4 when he and another soldier dived into a river during a resupply mission in Bala Murghab. Military officials said the men were recovering airdropped supplies that had fallen into the water. Relatives believe Sherman was trying to save the other paratrooper from the river’s strong current.
John P. Kelly may be reached at email@example.com.