A bone chilling wind blew over St. Joseph’s Church in Kings Park Thursday as the coffin of Seamus Byrne was carried out by pallbearers which included his three surviving brothers. His son Seamus wore his father's army beret and held his mother's hand as mourners left the church that his father had been baptized in 33 years ago.
Byrne, an Afghanistan war veteran, t early Sunday morning after leaving a celebration for his 33rd birthday at Napper Tandy’s in Smithtown.
Members of the armed forces saluted the flag covered coffin as bagpipes played Amazing Grace. It was one of many somber moments that occurred throughout the mass.
Mourners filled the church to near capacity to pay their respects to the man who tragically and unexpectedly lost his life. Byrne, who had survived a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan, came home from the war in 2009, according to his father-in-law, John Gallagher.
“It would have made sense to us if he lost his life in action,” said Rev. Sean Gann. “The people of Kings Park stand squarely behind the people who serve the United States of America."
The Byrne family ties to Kings Park go back several generations, having originally emigrated from Ireland. Much of the family remains in Kings Park, with Seamus having moved to nearby Smithtown about two years ago. Members of the Byrne family filled many of the first pews inside the church.
Gann spoke of the closeness of the community and the strong willingness to help each other in times of need noting that the network of support has helped to buoy the family in the past days.
“Generation after generation, they are born here and they stay here and the cycle begins again until we give them back to God,” said Gann.
His oldest brother John gave the eulogy and recalled a curly blond headed little boy who was playful and mischievous, who always had his big brother in his corner.
“He had a zest for life, a love of adventure and he was fiercely loyal to family, friends and country,” said Byrne. “My mother often came to this church to pray for my brother’s safety while he was in Afghanistan.”
Byrne also spoke of his brother's relationship with his wife. The two were high school sweethearts, she a cheerleader and he a football player.
“Thank you Michelle for the love and devotion you have shown to my brother," he said.
Members of the Saint James Fire Department, Suffolk County Police and the Veterans of Foreign Wars stood silently outside as pallbearers loaded the hearse that would bring Byrne to St. Philip Neri cemetery in Northport. Byrne is survived by his wife Michelle, and their two children, Seamus, 10 and Ashley, 3.
“Our hearts are broken,” said John Byrne. “Life without you will never be the same.”