A distraught Cheryl Walsh walked around the remains of her only child Sean Walsh, 21, today at Moffett Field, each time kissing her hands and laying those kisses over the American flag draped over the casket.
"It's really hard for a mom to realize that 'this is my son,'" said Major Jonathan Masaki Shiroma about that moment when the body of a dead soldier arrives and the family receives it. He asked the media not to record or photograph the family's reaction. "We'd like you to respect their privacy."
Killed in action on Nov. 16, Specialist Sean Walsh served with California Army National Guardsman in Khost Province Afghanistan.
"I didn't know Specialist Walsh, but spending time with his mother, Cheryl, you realize the sacrifices involved. That he's a human being and not just a number," said First Lieutenant Will Martin, a spokesman for the CA National Guard. "It brings it home."
Many friends and family members attended the event to support Walsh's mother. Heidi Ornellas and her son Jacob drove from Gilroy to pay their respects and remember the soldier and skateboarder.
"Sean was a skateboarder like my son and was a real mentor to the little ones," said Ornellas, who cried and hugged her son. "He was the only [soldier] I knew over there. It's crazy. I didn't think it would affect us."
Walsh's influence and generosity impacted 10-year-old Jacob who added, "He was cool."
"I fell really hard once and he was the only one that helped me," Jacob said.
Walsh's arrival brought out the members of the Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) and South Bay Blue Star Moms to Moffett Field. The PGR, along with the California Highway Patrol and Sunnyvale Police Department, escorted the body southbound on Highway 101 to the Oak Hill Funeral Home in San Jose.
"It's a sad day because we always think that it could be our child," said , Mountain View resident and Chaplain for the South Bay Blue Star Moms, a support group for mothers of children in active military duty. "We are here to honor him, his family, and we are here for our children."
Walsh had deployed with the CNG's 870th Military Police Company in December 2010. He's the second CNG soldier killed this month and the 29th to have died in both wars since Sept. 11.