As many of you may have heard, our long time friend Dave Connolly was killed last week in Afghanistan.  His loss, while devastating, has given many of us a chance to reflect on a life that was quite simply nothing short of extraordinary.  If you have a moment please read the words below, they are about a man who for me, defined the word hero:

We were sitting at Mary Ann's, a Boston College bar in Boston, 20 years old and we thought we knew everything.  Dave looked over and said, "I'm supposed to rat you guys out".  I told him, "I know".   For the next 17 years he was my friend.

Being a high school dropout is for many, an insurmountable hurdle.  For Dave, it was an impetus to greatness.  Enlisting in the Coast Guard, he stopped seeing obstacles, and saw possibilities.  Telling me about his first Christmas at sea (please realize that this has been edited for those who don't want to read a string of four letter words), "So, I'm on the deck, and I don't salute properly.  I'm down there doing pushups and that's it, I'm going to lose it.  I'm missing my family, I want to go home, this sucks.  Then something clicks.  I can do this, I can be a good soldier, I could be an officer.  This SOB will not break me."  I told him to get his head checked and to stop pointing at me.  Then we turned back to the Sox game.

He received his GED, was admitted to Boston College, and graduated cum laude.  He enrolled in the ROTC program and received awards for leadership.  He was just starting to pick up steam.

He received his commission as an officer in the United States Army and decided that he should go serve in some of the most God awful places his country could send him.  Quite literally, he went to places where other soldiers would look at him and say, "Who did you piss off?"  It was just Dave being Dave.  Along the way he would make friends, looking out for the lost souls and misfits.   They were his people.

So now he's a captain and decides "how about another challenge".  Receives admission to Suffolk Law School and graduates again with honors.   The little boy who was labeled learning disabled, is now a barrister for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Don't know if falling in love and marriage were in Dave's gameplan, but when he met Deb, the playbook went out the window.  I won't pretend that I have the words to describe their relationship.  He fell in love with her, she fell in love with him.  We were all really happy.

Weddings are a time of happiness, new beginnings and limitless possibilities.  For Dave and Deb it was about those they loved.  Dave's Mom had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  They moved their wedding date up six months and Dave rushed home from his unit.  The wedding was filled with family, friends and a whole lot of laughs.  When Dave danced with his Mom one last time, there was not a dry eye in the house. 

Three weeks after the wedding, his Mom passed away.  One month later, his Dad died from a heart attack.  

Job offers were never something Dave was lacking.  With his Boston College degree, Suffolk law degree, his rank and awards as a soldier, doors were swinging wide open all over the place.   Dave wanted, and attained the right job.  He became a prosecutor for Suffolk County and worked on protecting some of Boston's worst neighborhoods.

His country called him again.  With his time served, his connections, the importance of his job at home, Dave could have easily avoided the call.  For him, it was not a question of "should I go", it was "when do I go".

He headed off to Afghanistan and served with Special Forces.  He would send us pictures and shoot us emails.  Christmas time came and Dave wasn't home.  He was doing what he loved, what he said he would do.  He was an officer.

On April 6th, 2005, Dave's helicopter went down and he died.   He was serving and protecting us.  

Even in death, he continues to inspire us.   His brother Greg's eulogy was nothing short of inspirational.   Six Green Berets laid Dave to rest, he was promoted posthumously to the rank of Major and the President of the United States awarded him the Bronze Star.

From high school dropout to Major in the United States Army and Assistant District Attorney for Suffolk County.  His friends and loved ones span the globe.  We are less because he is gone, but so much more because we knew him.  Whenever a young person says there are no heroes in the world, we can shake our head and smile.  We can tell that child, whether in our role as a parent, a teacher or a mentor, to sit down and listen to a story about a man we knew.  We don't need to embellish or exaggerate, we can tell that young person a hero's tale.  We can tell that child about Dave Connolly. 

Please pray for his wife Debra, the entire Toran and Connolly families.

Please know that America has lost one of her finest sons.

Sean Gavin
21 Nickels

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