The impact that Marine Captain Matthew Patrick Manoukian had on people's lives was palpable in Mountain View.
Thirty minutes before the service, the gymnasium—where Manoukian and his mother Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian once danced together while he attended St. Francis High School—was three-quarters full. Friends, family, Marine Corps officers, members of the California judiciary, and law enforcement personnel began to gather in honor of the 29-year-old captain's life—his character, leadership, courage, loyalty and willingness to sacrifice his life for others.
By the time the service began, the gym was packed. Gatherers who could not make it inside spilled out into the foyer and sat on steps.
In all, nearly 2,000 people listened, cried, laughed and contemplated how they would keep his memory alive. on Aug. 10, 2012 in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
Banners with the gold and brown accolades of St. Francis athletic teams hung from the ceiling in the gym. The flourescent ceiling lights illuminated the numerous bright medals glistening on the lapels of Marines in dress blues.
There were bittersweet hugs and short spurts of laughter. But there was marked reservation as well. While those attending looked thankful to see one another, their eyes often could be seen clouding over, upset at the circumstances. A few people visibly shed tears and gasped for air. Others dabbed tissue on their eyes.
Around 3:10 p.m., after the presentation of the flags by the Marine color guard, pallbearers entered the gymnasium through the southwest corner—the casket draped with an American flag. As the pallbearers turned the corner to walk up the center aisle, someone let out a wail.
Manoukian's mother, Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian, and father, Socrates "Pete" Manoukian, walked slowly behind with distraught faces, looking over the length of their son's casket. Their two other sons, Michael and Martin, served as pallbearers, carrying their brother, assisted by Captain Bryan J. Buckley and Captain Joseph R. Apkarian.
SFHS President Kevin Makley called Manoukian a quiet, unassuming leader, and explained how Manoukian exemplified the school's core Catholic values of integrity, respect and appreciation of family. "Now, he made the ultimate sacrifice," said Makley. "He became an extraordinary soldier, he became the teacher, and his lessons can carry on forever."
An uncle, William Bamattre, shared with the audience the story of how Manoukian wanted a care package sent overseas to him, but insisted the package only contain backpacks for the kids in Iraq. He wanted nothing for himself.
It reflected part of Manoukian's duties in Iraq and Afghanistan—village stabilization—and it showed the type of Marine he was.
"Matt was at the center of this effort," said Major General Paul Lefebvre. "Matt believed in this concept, and developed friendships with elders and the Afghan police. They could never get Matt to quit."
On several occasions photo slideshows were shown of the Manoukian family, and of Matthew Manoukian's deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he pulled a total of four tours. He joined the Marine Corps in 2005.
"My heart is completely broken, my life has changed forever," said Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian, thanking everyone for the food, visits, kindness and flowers. "Matt lived a happy, fulfilling and wonderful life."
His father asked everyone not to feel sad.
"Be happy that he was able to do so much with so little," Pete Manoukian said.
Before Manoukian's parents left the stage, they were presented with the Purple Heart, given to families who lose a loved one at war.
As he returned back to his seat, Pete Manoukin kissed the flag on his son's casket.
Noted attendees for the memorial included Bishop Thomas A. Daly; Major General Paul Lefebvre, Justice Kathleen O'Leary, fourth appellate district, division three court justice; and Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen.
This is the second Los Altos Hills member of the armed forces killed in action in the last two wars. Army Sgt. William Sigua died in Iraq in January of 2007. Mountain View's Lt. .
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Correction: Patch has changed the use of "soldier" when in reference to a Marine. The reference however, has been left in any quotes.