LCpl. Dennis Veater
(reprinted from TheTimes-Tribune.com, March 19, 2007)
A funeral instead of a wedding
CLARKS GREEN — Given the occasion, it was a sadly appropriate hymn.“You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst,” the Church of St. Gregory choir sang while mourners took their seats Saturday at the funeral of Marine Lance Cpl. Dennis J. Veater.“You shall wander far in safety, though you do not know the way,” continued the lyrics of Jesuit Bob Dufford’s “Be not Afraid.”Lance Cpl. Veater did, after all, cross the barren desert — as a Marine truck driver in Iraq — but the Jessup resident did not survive what was to have been his last convoy. The 20-year-old, whose gear was already packed for home, died March 9 in a Fallujah military hospital from wounds suffered during that mission in Al Anbar province. Military officials have not released details, citing the safety of troops still in the region.“I will dream of him, and tell everyone about him,” his sister, Patti Cowan, said. “He’s my baby brother. He’s my hero.“May he rest in peace.”Four of Lance Cpl. Veater’s siblings, along with his fiancee and her pastor, eulogized the fallen Marine on Saturday during a Catholic funeral Mass celebrated by Monsignor John H. Louis of St. Gregory, his family’s parish.The youngest of six children, Lance Cpl. Veater was alone among the pack in following their father, retired Sgt. Major Donald G. Veater, into the Marines.“The words, ‘looking up to Dennis’ gave us a new meaning a couple days ago,” said his twin brother, Adam Veater, who was born shortly before Dennis. “We will always be looking up.”His oldest sister, Karen, echoed that theme, saying she often felt Dennis “was my protector,” even as children.“I always imagined this day would come, like 60 years from now,” Miss Veater said. “My brother was taken too early to show all of us everything he could have and should have become.”Lance Cpl. Veater, a 2004 Abington Heights High School graduate, was assigned to the Marine Forces Reserve’s Wing Support Squadron 472, Wing Support Group 47, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing at Wyoming in Luzerne County.He was due home Wednesday to plan a May 26 wedding with fiancee Angalene Snipes, 21, of Jessup. The couple met during their freshman year at Penn State Worthington Scranton in 2004.At his betrothed’s request, he will be buried wearing a wedding ring.Miss Snipes sat in the front row Saturday with the couple’s son, 14-month-old Dominick, only feet from the flag-draped casket with a Purple Heart medal pinned to it.“He used to say, ‘I wish you could see what I’m doing over here,” Miss Snipes said. “I told him, ‘I don’t need to see. I know.’ ”Like his siblings, she praised a young man who leaves a legacy of love for his country and his kin.“I’m so proud of him for the man he is,” she sobbed. “For the man he was. And for the man our son is going to be.”Whatever that little boy may someday remember of Saturday’s funeral, history will record that his father was bade farewell in a ceremony colored by centuries of well-honed military decorum and millenia of Christian tradition.For that, one need look no farther than the powerful sight of uniformed Marines among the congregants, kneeling in prayer and taking Holy Communion side by side with civilian mourners.Lance Cpl. Veater’s burial was postponed due to Friday’s snowstorm, but elements normally reserved for graveside burial were carried out Saturday.Sacred music and readings were complemented by a Marine honor guard, playing of the Marine and Navy hymns, and outside the church, there boomed a traditional rifle salute and bugling of taps.The Marines were kind enough, Donald Veater said, to provide two U.S. Flags and two Purple Heart medals — one set for himself, one set for Dominick. Countless muffled sobs broke the silence of hundreds as a Marine presented a crisply folded flag to little Dominick, cradled in his crying mother’s arms.In his homily, Monsignor Louis meditated on life as a gift which God gives freely and takes back equally freely, often inexplicably to the human mind. He reminded the faithful that, according to Christian belief, physical death is not spiritual death.“Human life is not destroyed, it’s changed,” Monsignor Louis said. “It’s changed into the marble of God himself.”Michael Cantando, pastor of Faith Baptist Church of Peckville, where Angalene and Dennis worshipped, reiterated the resurrection message during his eulogy: “Though family and friends are experiencing loss,” he said, “God is experiencing the presence of Dennis for ... work well done.”He also praised those who molded the young man’s character, especially parents Donald and Donna.“Make no mistake. The lion’s share of who Dennis is, who Dennis was, was because of mom and dad,” Pastor Cantando said. “It is a credit to their parenting. It was this Dennis, Angie fell in love with.”About that, she left no doubts.“No matter what he did, it was always about someone else’s happiness,” Miss Snipes said.