Soldier with ties to Tucson killed by bomb in Iraq
Jul. 21, 2006 12:00 AM
Two weeks ago, Cynthia DesLauriers waved goodbye to her son, Sgt. Mark R. Vecchione, as he walked through airport security toward the flight that would take him back to Iraq.
"I love you Mark," she called to him, laughing as his pressed Army uniform kept setting off the metal detectors. "See you soon!"
They were the last words DesLauriers said to her son.
Vecchione was killed Tuesday when a roadside bomb blew up near his tank in Ar Ramadi, Iraq. He was 25.
Vecchione was assigned to the Army's 1st Batallion, 37th Armor Regiment of the 1st Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany.
Vecchione moved to Tucson when he was 16 to live with his now deceased father, Guy.
He graduated from Sahuaro High School in 1999 and signed up for the Army with two friends right after Sept. 11.
"They believed they were going to help protect the country they loved," his mother said.
Vecchione had come home a month ago for a two-week leave from his second tour of duty to see his mother, sister Lori, and his 5-year-old nephew, Sebastian, in Eastham, Mass., where they now live.
On Vecchione's Myspace.com Web site, he wrote that his goal for the year was "making it home alive."
Friends flooded the site with mournful goodbyes once news about his death spread.
"To one of the sweetest, most sincere and respectable men I know," wrote 23-year old Jillian Antonio. "I love you and will miss you always."
Antonio and Vecchione were best friends. They met as teenagers in their East Side Tucson neighborhood.
Vecchione was dedicated to his family and friends and especially the children in his life, Antonio said. When she had a child a couple of years ago, Vecchione sent a card and check for her son.
Private First Class Nicholas E. Tessmer wrote that Vecchione would be missed more than he could know.
To Vecchione's 5-year-old nephew, Sebastian, Tessmer wrote, "I only wish you could have known your uncle longer. He was an excellent person and leader. I pray that that he made an impression on you with only the short time you had together. Soldier on little buddy."
Arizona Daily Star 07/21/06
Sahuaro grad dies in Iraq bombing
By Josh Brodesky
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 07.21.2006
A soldier who went to high school in Tucson was killed Tuesday after the tank he was riding in was struck by a roadside bomb in Ar Ramadi, Iraq.
Army Sgt. Mark R. Vecchione grew up in Eastham, Mass. But he moved to Tucson in 1997 with his father after his parents divorced.
He attended Sahuaro High School, graduating in 1999, and he enlisted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But it was in Tucson that his life took shape, said his mother, Cynthia DesLauriers.
"He met some of his closest buddies when he was out there," she said by telephone from Eastham. "People that he basically turned into a man with."
Vecchione served in the 1st Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Division based in Friedberg, Germany.
After being struck by a homemade bomb, Vecchione's tank caught fire. As the 25-year-old scrambled out of the tank a second bomb exploded, killing him on the battlefield, said Maj. Nathan Banks, an Army spokesman. He was the only casualty, although Banks said he could not confirm if any of his fellow soldiers were injured.
Vecchione's death has resonated across the country as his family and hometown of Eastham grieves along with his friends in Tucson.
"Mark chose the Army, chose the armored division," DesLauriers said. "He figured he would be safe in a tank."
His first tour lasted 16 months, and when he returned his family and friends gathered for a reunion, his mother said.
After he returned to Germany, though, he broke the news that he would serve a second tour.
"I said, 'You're kidding me,' " DesLauriers said.
Despite the dangers, she said she understood his convictions.
"Mark believed in what he was doing," she said. "He believed in America, and he believed in the troops."
She described her son as devoted to his family, in particular his sister Lori and his nephew Sebastian. He had come home on leave June 19 and spent the bulk of his time with family, she said.
It was the same devotion that brought him to Tucson in 1997.
"Mark needed his dad more," DesLauriers said. "He just needed his dad, and his dad decided he wanted to move."
Here, his father, Guy, bought a bakery, and Vecchione occasionally helped with errands.
He also quickly fell in with a group of friends.
"Mark lived down the street, he was my best friend," said Jillian Antonio, who now lives in Nebraska.
She said he stood out because of his maturity and his East Coast background. The two hadn't seen one another in five years but corresponded almost daily, she said.
"At first I didn't like the kid," said Army Sgt. Travis Wilson, now stationed at Fort Knox, Ky. "He just rubbed me the wrong way."
The small group of friends had grown up together and were tight-knit. Wilson and Antonio even dated. Wilson said he didn't understand why the group was taking in a new friend from the East Coast.
But over time, he said he became impressed by Vecchione's devotion to others. "There are a handful of people that have touched my life, and Mark is one of them," Wilson said.
Vecchione had been thinking about enlisting in the military when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks happened.
A few weeks later his father died. Friends and family said Vecchione found himself in Tucson with little connection.
"He and his dad were really close," Wilson said. "I think he had to get away."
Antonio said his father's death instilled a sense of responsibility in Vecchione. He often said he had to take care of his family, and he even started a trust fund for Antonio's son even though he was not the dad.
DesLauriers said she'll rely on the devotion and love her son displayed to carry her through the loss. There has been a wave of support in Eastham, but she still feels numb.
"Nobody likes war," she said. "The soldiers don't like war, but they believe in their country and the safety of their country, and that's why they do it. Even though I lost my son to this war, I am still going to support the troops. I'm going to continue to send packages to his company."
On StarNet: Search the updated database of troops killed, wounded or missing in action in Iraq at azstarnet.com/attack
● Contact reporter Josh Brodesky at 434-4086 or firstname.lastname@example.org