Hundreds of mourners gathered at an Oceanside funeral home last night to honor fallen Marine Greg Buckley Jr., who family said wanted to be a protective big brother to his two siblings and his country.
It was so jammed inside Vanella's Funeral Chapel that many waited in the parking lot, prompting Buckley's father and two younger brothers to come out to thank them and apologize.
"I just wanted to tell you all how much your support means to me and my sons, Shane and Justin," a choked-up Greg Buckley Sr. said as people gathered around him. "We're trying to go slowly so everybody can come in and speak."
Lance Cpl. Buckley was just days from making a trip to Hawaii and a surprise home visit when he was fatally shot by an Afghan police officer on Aug. 10, one of six Marines killed that day in two separate encounters with Afghan officers.
He had turned 21 just two weeks ago. While assigned to the 3rd Battalion, he served as a logistics and facilities adviser. He was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously.
"I'm feeling extremely sad, shocked, but impressed by the outpouring of love and support from family and community," Ted Buckley of Rockaway, the Marine's uncle, said at the wake.
Thursday afternoon, Buckley's father and his mother, Marina, broke down, weeping as his flag-draped coffin arrived at the funeral home. A color guard saluted Buckley's body upon arrival.
Buckley was a senior at Oceanside High School when he enlisted. His father was initially against it. A football and basketball player, he graduated in 2009. At 16 Buckley, the 9/11 attacks on his mind, told his family he wanted to join the military.
In a June letter to his family, the Marine told his brothers the "real" reason for joining.
He wasn't the smartest, nor the most athletic in school, he wrote to Shane, 18, and Justin, 16, but he wanted them to be proud of him: "I didn't want you guys to look at me like . . . a nobody. I was a kid who didn't know what he wanted & had 2 little brothers that he knew looked up to him."
Buckley wanted to become a police officer stateside, but with that dream cut short his father said he supports ending the war in Afghanistan.
"I feel good, now he is here on American soil," he said. "But I feel that the government did something wrong by me and by the Marines and by all the kids who are coming back in coffins."
The wake continues from 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m. Friday. The funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre, with burial to follow at Long Island National Cemetery, Pinelawn.