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Strangers share in Bishop family's grief

One man in attendance arrived on a motorcycle whose license tag bore the name of his dead son.

Two women who came work together at a Bay Shore food pantry.

A former firefighter there had lost dozens of friends in the collapse of the World Trade Center.

None of them knew Staff Sgt. Keith Bishop, the Medford Green Beret who perished last month in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

But they and scores of others who never knew Bishop were among the hundreds of friends, neighbors, relatives and colleagues who attended his wake Saturday afternoon at Ruland Funeral Home on North Ocean Avenue in Patchogue.

Bishop, 28, and nine others were killed in western Afghanistan Oct. 26 when a helicopter they were flying in clipped a tall structure and fell to the ground just after a drugs and arms interdiction mission. He was a member of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, based at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Richard Baylis, 59, of Patchogue, arrived at the wake bearing a measure of his own grief. His son, Army Pfc. Matthew Baylis, 20, was killed in Baghdad in 2007.

"All you can do is try to tell them that as time goes on, although it doesn't necessarily get any better, there are a lot of people out there who are willing to help," said Baylis, whose motorcycle's "Matt 87" license tag honors his slain son.

Maureen Murphy, of Patchogue, also came. She paused for a long moment and crossed herself in front of Bishop's flag-draped coffin, then spoke with some of Bishop's relatives.

She had met Bishop's brother Stephen by chance about a week earlier at Calverton National Cemetery, where her eldest son, Navy Seal Lt. Michael P. Murphy - an awardee of the Medal of Honor - is buried.

Members of Bishop's family appeared to take comfort in the outpouring of support.

Stephen Bishop said Murphy spoke with him for almost an hour at the cemetery, and had left him feeling that someone understood the ordeal that public grief can entail.

"A death can leave you feeling so all alone," Stephen Bishop said. "Talking with her really was comforting."

Another wake is scheduled for 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home.

A funeral will be held Monday at 10 a.m. at United Methodist Church on South Ocean Avenue in Patchogue.

Burial will follow in Calverton National Cemetery in Calverton.

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