The toll of war hit home in Oceanside Thursday as a motorcade carried the body of Marine Lance Corporal Greg Buckley, Jr. back to his hometown.
More than a hundred family members, friends and neighbors looked on as Buckley's body arrived from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Many wore t-shirts bearing a picture of the fallen Marine. Others held American flags.
Buckley's father walked in front of the hearse as it rolled to a stop, then collapsed in tears on the hood.
"I want my son," he said. "I want my son."
Buckley's mother and two younger brothers were also overcome with grief. Marina Buckley's cries pierced the air, as a Marine honor guard moved Buckley's flag-draped casket into Vanella's Funeral Chapel. Even a small boy, dressed in a USA basketball jersey, held his head in his hand and wept as the gut-wrenching scene played out in the bright midday sunshine.
"He loved being a Marine. He was so proud being a Marine," said Greg Buckley, Sr. "He gave his life for this country. It's heartbreaking."
Buckley, 21, was killed last Friday in Afghanistan. He was one of six Marines to die in two separate incidents in the Helmand province. Buckley died just before a planned surprise visit to his family and friends on Long Island.
"It's hard to see my best friend going into a funeral home in a casket," said Sebastian Buttafuoco. "I'll never be able to give him a hug again, never be able to play basketball again. There's no words to describe how I'm feeling right now."
Buckley's funeral mass is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre. A wake will be held in Oceanside Thursday and Friday.
According to his father, Buckley was upset in his final days. In one letter home, Buckley wrote that that he didn't expect to come home alive.
"He said he didn't feel good over there," said Greg Buckley Sr. "He was there four months and he said not once did anyone say 'Thank you.'"
His father says Buckley Jr. was killed by an Afghan soldier he was training.
Some in the crowd who watched the emotional homecoming carried signs that read, "Bring the troops home now for Greg Buckley."
Buckley Sr. echoed that sentiment.
"We've got to bring those boys home," he said. "I'm not going to sit down until we do."
As his son's casket was carried into the funeral home, Buckley Sr. called on the crowd to "salute my son." Many did just that, lifting their hands to honor the Oceanside High School graduate.
"Someone asked me two years ago who my hero was and I didn't know," said Buckley's younger brother Shane. "If someone asked me today, I would say my brother is my hero."
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