VIDEO: Hometown hero laid to rest: Fallen soldier Marc Scialdo remembered as leader, family man

Corey Perrine/Staff
A burial vault lid depicts the life of late Staff Sgt. Marc Scialdo to be placed atop Marc Scialdo's casket waits in the cemetery before burial Friday, March 22, 2013 at Palm Royale Cemetery Mausoleum in Naples, Fla. U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Marc A. Scialdo, 31, was laid to rest with full military honors after an hour-long funeral ceremony at St. John The Evangelist Catholic Church. Hundreds of friends, family and military supporters, came to pay their final respects.

Photo by COREY PERRINE, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

Corey Perrine/Staff A burial vault lid depicts the life of late Staff Sgt. Marc Scialdo to be placed atop Marc Scialdo's casket waits in the cemetery before burial Friday, March 22, 2013 at Palm Royale Cemetery Mausoleum in Naples, Fla. U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Marc A. Scialdo, 31, was laid to rest with full military honors after an hour-long funeral ceremony at St. John The Evangelist Catholic Church. Hundreds of friends, family and military supporters, came to pay their final respects.

Naples soldier funeral service

Funeral service for Naples soldier Marc Scialdo

In a life that lasted 31 years, Marc Scialdo made thousands of decisions, some that changed his life forever.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Collier County native chose to join the Army.

When he fell in love with a woman named Kara, they chose to marry on Nov. 11, 2011 — Veterans Day.

Even as a baby, his family believes Marc chose them.

“Marc’s soul chose us, his mother and father, for his purpose and journey in life,” his parents said in a letter read at his funeral Friday. “He was a part of a tight-knit loving family — involved parents, three siblings — who did everything together.”

Scialdo, a staff sergeant with the Army and 1999 graduate of St. John Neumann High School, was killed March 11 when a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter he was traveling in crashed in Afghanistan. He was eulogized and buried Friday after a 10 a.m. funeral at St. John the Evangelist Parish in North Naples, where hundreds of mourners packed the church.

“So many people will say the United States of America is a great nation. It is,” said the Rev. John Ludden. “Why is it a great nation? Because people like Marc pave its destiny.”

In a letter read by Scialdo’s father-in-law, Scialdo’s wife called her four-and-a-half years with Marc “the best time of my life.”

“He was perfect for me and he always told me I was perfect for him,” she wrote. “Simply put, I loved him with all of my heart. I will always love him.”

Scialdo’s fellow soldiers called him the Italian Stallion, a father figure, a man who loved the Army so much he bled green.

“When something needed to be done, you could always count on finding Scialdo elbow-deep in an engine cowling, or grumbling as he typed away in his office,” said his platoon leader, Capt. Nick Kanakis. “Even if he didn’t like the task, Marc was always a leader who did what was needed most.

“That’s why his soldiers loved him. He never quit.”

At the end of the funeral, Brigadier Gen. John Hort presented Scialdo with a posthumous Bronze Star Medal, which is given for a heroic or meritorious achievement. He was also awarded the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the NATO International Security Assistance Force Medal.

Following the service, friends, family and some who never even knew Scialdo made their way to Palm Royale Cemetery. Men, women and children lined the streets along the route waving flags as the procession went by.

Bill Martin, an Army veteran who did not know Scialdo, said he tries to attend soldiers’ funerals when he is able to.

“One is too many,” he said. “Today’s military defends our freedom by running toward the gunfire.”

Naples resident Kathleen Heinrichsberg said she came to support Scialdo’s family.

“I want to thank them for sharing their son and letting us say our goodbyes,” she said.

Scialdo’s family sat underneath a tent while others who came to grieve him surrounded his casket. Those in attendance said an “Our Father” and paused for several moments of silence.

After “Taps” was played and the soldier was given three rifle volleys, the group of mourners backed away and Scialdo’s family approached his casket. His widow rested a red rose on top of the wood, then softly kissed her hand and touched it to the casket.

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