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Army Spc. Stephen R. Fortunato

Died October 14, 2008 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

25, of Danvers, Mass.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died Oct. 14 of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device in Qazi Bandeh, Afghanistan. Also killed were Spc. Cory J. Bertrand and Sgt. Preston R. Medley.

Beverly farewell for fallen soldier

The Associated Press

BEVERLY, Mass. — Hundreds of relatives and friends packed a Beverly church for the funeral of a 25-year-old soldier who is the town’s first service member killed in combat since the Vietnam War.

Army Spc. Stephen Fortunato died Oct. 13 when his truck hit a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, where he was serving as a gunner with the 26th Infantry Regiment.

Brig. Gen. Todd Semonite presented Fortunato’s family with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, describing him as a brave man considered “the go-to guy” by commanders and fellow soldiers.

Gov. Deval Patrick and Sen. John Kerry attended the services Friday morning at St. Mary Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church.

On Thursday night, a wake was held at Beverly High School, where Fortunato graduated in 2002.

Army Spc. Stephen R. Fortunato remembered

The Associated Press

Stephen R. Fortunato was the oldest of three children, and his younger siblings were at their mother’s side to offer memories of their brother.

“I don’t even want to believe this is true. He was my role model, my hero,” said Anthony, 20, the youngest. “I loved him so much that I really, really hope that wherever he is, he knows that.”

Fortunato, 25, of Danvers, Mass., died Oct. 14 in Qazi Bandeh, Afghanistan, when his vehicle struck an IED. He was a 2002 high school graduate and was assigned to Fort Hood, Texas.

“My son Stephen was very affectionate and a loving kid,” Betty Crawford said. “He was the jokester, all the time. But he was also a dedicated soldier. He went into the Army like anyone else, a kid. He came home as a man.”

He tried studying graphic arts at North Shore Community College, but decided he was not ready for college. He enlisted, choosing the Army because he wanted to be in combat.

He also is survived by his wife, Sherri.

“He had brown hair, green eyes, and the biggest smile in the world,” she said. “He was a loving person. He loved his family. He loved his mother. He stayed strong for them. He was a hero.”

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