The Things They Carried

Pfc. Evan W. O'Neill, Army
April 16, 1984–September 29, 2003 // Haverhill
“Evan's father, Mike, spent 18 months in Vietnam, and when Evan was growing up, he collected everything military. When he went into the service, he took one of Mike's dog tags and attached it to his own, which we didn't know. When he got killed, the guys held on to them until they came back to the States. When my husband looked at them, he was crushed. He wears them every day, Evan's dog tag and his own.

“I made the ribbon after 9/11, and Evan said he would always carry it with him. When his wallet came back from Afghanistan, where he was killed, it was still there. Evan always put other people before himself. As neither one of us was there when he needed us the most, we feel very honored to see that he chose to carry a bit of both of us right to the end.” —Barbara O'Neill, mother

Lance Cpl. Travis R. Desiato, USMC
March 14, 1985–November 15, 2004 // Bedford
“Travis very much was a person who believed in teamwork, believed in family, believed that the goals of the group were more important than the goals of one. I think that his service to the country showed that. He also cared deeply about his family and this community. He was committed to serving in the Marines and the infantry. He was one of only three men in boot camp who graduated as lance corporals. He was offered presidential duty, a very auspicious honor, but that would have meant staying in the States for at least two years, and he turned it down.

“Travis was someone who, once he made his mind up about things, was undeterrable. He was strong-minded and believed very much in his decisions and was willing to take the consequences for those decisions. We're very proud of him.” —Joseph Desiato, father

Sgt. Andrew K. Farrar Jr., USMC
January 28, 1974–January 28, 2005 // Weymouth
“Andrew said early on, 'Basketball is my life.' He played all day, every day. The sound of Andrew dribbling a basketball was the
soundtrack to his childhood. He often played well into the evening with only a streetlight to illuminate the hoop. His dedication, enthusiasm, loyalty, work ethic, love, and devotion all stem from his love of basketball. He spent hours perfecting his game both on and off the court—and he took the same approach to raising his family and his life in the Marine Corps.

“A basketball net must have appeared unreachable to Andrew when he started playing at age four. His courage and determination on the court remind us of the man who sacrificed everything for each of us.” —Andrew Sr. and Claire Farrar, parents; Jason and Nathan, brothers; Bethany, sister

1st Lt. Brian M. McPhillips, USMC
January 25, 1978–April 4, 2003 // Pembroke
“When he joined the military, Brian got this copy of a New Testament Bible. He actually had it and showed it to me when we visited to say goodbye before he left. It was packed in a camouflage pouch. After he lost his life, I made a call to his lieutenant colonel and they were able to locate his pouch for me, in Iraq, which is pretty unbelievable when you think that there's hundreds and hundreds of pieces of equipment there.

“When you have a 25-year-old man you've raised, it's sometimes hard to see what the core of that person has turned out to be, and the fact that Brian kept that Bible with him really confirmed for me what I felt about his character and virtue. It was a true confirmation of the ins and outs of this young man, our son, of his character, and it gave us tremendous peace.” —Julie McPhillips, mother

Gunnery Sgt. Elia P. Fontecchio, USMC
July 29, 1974–August 4, 2004 // Milford
“Family was Elia's world. On Sundays, we would always get together for a big homemade Italian feast. It usually began with a get-together during the week, where we would prepare homemade Italian sauce, meatballs, sausage, and pasta. One time, instead of hanging the pasta to dry on the rack, Elia had a silly moment and decorated his head and ears with it.

“He was strong, focused, positive, and a leader. He was fun, kind, gentle, and loving. He loved Harley-Davidsons, a Guinness, and a good cigar. It's now more important than ever for us to continue the dinner tradition. Everything we do, hear, or see reminds us of him. As we all get together now, Elia may not be there physically, but he is there. He is with us each and every day.” —Dennis and Cindy Fontecchio, parents; Alicia, Joslyn, and Nicole, sisters

Pfc. John D. Hart, Army
September 18, 1983?October 18, 2003 // Bedford
“John liked apples. He always wanted an apple pie instead of a birthday cake. John died in the fall, and then I couldn't look at
apples, I couldn't smell apples in the grocery store. The first Thanksgiving after he died, my daughters and I made pie together
because I just didn't think I could do it alone.

“After he died, we wanted to give something nice to folks who'd been good to us. The apple is, in the Celtic tradition, the symbol of life, so we gave out cuttings from a historic apple tree at Babson College—something that would keep going on, keep going forward. We had a candlelight vigil on the town common, in front of the church near where we planted one of the trees. The town really rallied for John. We have that nagging fear that this war is going to come to nothing. You don't want to think that your boy died for nothing.” —Alma Hart, mother

Staff   Sgt. Darren J. Cunningham, Army
July 21, 1964–September 30, 2004 // Groton
“Darren was an Iraqi police service liaison, so he had a direct part in the construction of more than 80 Iraqi police stations. He went out of his way to learn the Iraqi language and to learn what the people were like. His memorial service in Baghdad was attended by more than 200 Iraqis. He was the go-to guy for his company. He had stereo equipment, a TV, DVD player, PlayStation. He was fun-loving, but his men knew that when he talked, he meant business. And they knew Darren had their backs.

“I look at the patch and think, How many of us will pass away doing what we loved? My brother absolutely loved his job. He would want us all to go on, to be busy with our lives, to continue his legacy of helping others and not being afraid to try things, and to not forget about him but not let it overwhelm us.” —Tracey Cunningham, sister