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Mourning for soldier continues in Naples

Mar. 23, 2013
Naples soldier killed in Afghanistan laid to rest ...
Naples soldier killed in Afghanistan laid to rest ...: Staff Sgt. Marc Scialdo, 31, of Naples was one of five American soldiers killed in a Black Hawk helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Friends and family mourned his death at a Naples church. Video by Chris Umpierre
Fallen soldier Staff Sgt. Marc Scialdo was laid to rest Friday at Palm Royale Cemetery Mausoleum in Naples. / Andrew West/


An honor guard held American flags outside the Naples church as about 100 people whisked tears from under dark sunglasses. Then 10 men emerged from the church, walked to the white hearse and opened the door.

A casket, draped in a flag, was carried out. The sounds of sobs filled the morning air.

Tears, hugs and somber embraces filled St. John the Evangelist Church as family, friends and about 50 soldiers remembered Army soldier Marc Anthony Scialdo on Friday. The former Naples resident died in a Black Hawk helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan on March 11. Scialdo, 31, is the 14th Southwest Floridian killed in Afghanistan since 2002.

“This was such a beautiful ceremony that I feel like Marc’s here,” Naples resident Mary Jean Buckley said. “Marc is a real tribute to this nation. What a great friend. I just feel so bad for his wife. She looked so frail and very upset. This is going to take a while for her to get through.”

Scialdo’s wife, Kara Lee, and her family didn’t want to speak to the media Friday. Media weren’t allowed inside the church, but attendants said the eulogy consisted of quotes from longtime friends. They remembered Scialdo as a funny, life-of-the-party man who adored his wife.

Brigadier Gen. John Hort awarded the Bronze Star to Scialdo’s family during the funeral. The Bronze Star is awarded for acts of heroism, acts of merit, or meritorious service in a combat zone. Merritt and Lorene Searfoss, who lived next door to Scialdo for 10 years when he was growing up in Naples, said the ceremony left them in tears.

“It is emotional because you don’t think about this stuff or about dying when you’re over there serving,” said Merritt Searfoss, who served in the Army in World War II. He received a Bronze Star from the Army decades ago for his contribution.

Searfoss remembered Scialdo as a smiling youngster.

“I have this memory of him holding onto my lawn mower with me as I mowed the lawn,” said Searfoss, 90. “We’re just so sorry for the loss. He was a great kid.”

About 50 soldiers made the trip from Scialdo’s Army training base in Fort Stewart. Two soldiers helped carry Scialdo’s casket.

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“This is an important event because we’re celebrating the life of a soldier who served his country and laid down his life on the altar,” said Kevin Larson, spokesman for the Fort Stewart, where Scialdo trained. The post is located near Savannah, Ga. “This reminds us that we still have soldiers in harm’s way and we’re still fighting.”

Larson said his base plans to plant an eastern redbud tree in honor of Scialdo at its “Warrior’s Walk” in Fort Stewart. There are about 445 trees planted in honor of fallen soldiers. Larson said Scialdo’s former training buddies are taking his death hard.

“This is someone you fix a broken tank with and that you fly in a helicopter with,” Larson said. “It’s someone that you shoot your M16 or M4 with. It’s your battle buddy.”

Scialdo was one of five Americans killed in the Black Hawk helicopter crash. Scialdo’s Facebook page listed him as a Black Hawk crew chief. The NATO military coalition said in a statement initial reports showed no enemy activity in the area. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

“I’m very humbled to be here to let the family know how far reaching an impact their child had,” said Marie Greenwell, who taught Scialdo in the third grade at Naples Park Elementary. “I can see that little boy in my classroom, always smiling. That spirit carried him around the world. He was always thinking about others and doing what he was meant to do.”

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