Shining the Light of Wisdom and Truth

Orthodox Marine from NH to be buried at Arlington
by By Peg Warner
December 1, 2004

HAVERHILL, Mass. The items on the table in the church lobby told only parts of Marine Lance Cpl. Dimitrios Gavriel's life.

A photo of the state champion heavyweight wrestler at Timberlane Regional High School in Plaistow at work on the mat. A photo of him in the U.S. Marine uniform he wore for only slightly more than a year.


Two Purple Hearts commendations one for an injury he received in Iraq on Nov. 12, the other for the wounds that would prove fatal just a week later in Fallujah, a hot spot of insurgency in the war.

He will be buried tomorrow at Arlington National Cemetery.

But yesterday, an estimated 1,000 people, including former teammates, current wrestlers and fraternity brothers from Brown University, filled Holy Apostles Sts. Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church. They crowded into its choir loft and the church hall downstairs, where they watched on video provided by the local cable-access station.

Even customers from the pizza place across the street came outside to watch from the sidewalk as mourners, including his parents, Penelope and Chris Gavriel, who now live in Haverhill, and his sister, Christina, of New York City, arrived, and the casket was borne up the steps into the church by a burial detail from 1st Battalion, 25th Marines.

Mourners pause before a table bearing photos and military commendations of Marine Lance Cpl. Dimitri Gavriel as they enter Holy Apostles Sts. Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church for his funeral yesterday in Haverhill, Mass. (Peg Warner)
More of Gavriel's story unfolded inside the church, where he was remembered as someone who took his responsibility to others so seriously that, after losing two friends in the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, he left a six-figure job as a research equity analyst on Wall Street to go to war at age 29.

Family members sat at the front of the church, listening as friends returned time and again to the sacrifice their son and brother had made.

Frank Bass, assistant superintendent of the Manchester school district, spoke in Greek and in English as he recalled the life of Gavriel, a first-generation Greek-American, as "a success story by any definition."

"He was living the American dream when he gave it up because of his concern for others. He didn't talk about it, he didn't dream it, he lived it," said Bass, likening Gavriel to ancient Greek warriors.

"He was a good boy who became a great man," he said.

Bass worked with Gavriel in 1992 and 1993 when he was Timberlane's enrichment coordinator.

Archbishop Metropolitan Methodios of the Archdiocese of Boston likened Gavriel's sacrifice to that of Jesus, who a few days before his crucifixion told his disciples, fearful of losing him, "Greater love hath no man than the man who lays down his life for his friends."

"I'm sure those words were etched in the soul and the heart and the mind of this young man," said the archbishop, who presided over the funeral service along with 11 other priests, including Father George Tsoukalis of Lynn, Mass., who once served at Holy Apostles, and his cousin, Chris Synodrinos. Others came from other Greek Orthodox congregations around the region.

"Who are his friends? Those poor people in Iraq who haven't seen a good day in their lives," said Methodios. "He laid down his life for his friends."

Matt McClelland, who met Gavriel at Brown University, and high school friend Shawn White, said they felt guilty calling themselves his best friends.

"He has many in here," said White; Gavriel served as his best man.

Anthony Ferina marveled at Gavriel's "unquenchable intellectual curiosity," taking courses in neuroscience and other subjects not related to his economics studies.

Ferina revealed a mischievous side to Gavriel, who he said liked to pull pranks. He also appreciated music and had a taste for high-end stereo equipment. When you lived on the other side of the wall from Gavriel, he said, "You quickly learned to share his musical taste whether you wanted to or not."

Gavriel "made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of his country," said Ferina. "Perhaps more importantly, in defense of his own beliefs, character and integrity."

"When he set his mind on something, he did it," said White. "And he set his mind on great things."

After the service, Gavriel's body was taken to H.L. Farmer and Sons funeral home. From there, according to funeral director Rick Barry, it will be taken today to Manchester Airport, accompanied by Marines and escorted by police. It will then be flown to Virginia.

Copyright 2004 - The Union Leader. All rights reserved.