NORTH BRUNSWICK' Residents showered a local family's home in yellow carnations honoring a lost soldier.
A congregation of about 50 residents walked nearly half a mile from Babbage Park to the walkway of what was once Spc. Narson B. Sullivan's front door with flowers during a memorial service on Saturday afternoon.
"The placing of the yellow carnations is a sign of peace, respect and unity from our community to the family," Department of Parks and Recreation Director Lou Ann Benson said.
Sullivan, 21, died in Iraq when his weapon discharged and struck him in the head during weapons maintenance on April 25, Army officials said.
Sullivan is the first Middlesex County soldier to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"We ask to fill in the gaping hole that now exists in their family with honest and joyful and strong memories of Narson," the Rev. Mark McGraff said. "Fill their family with the love, encouragement and laughter of friends who will also remember Narson the same way."
Friends, residents and public officials, including Mayor David Spaulding, Township Council members and U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12 District) were among those who attended the ceremony.
Benson, who organized the event in cooperation with the mayor's office, said, "Part of the reason we are here is in hope to find comfort in the words we share with each other about Narson."
Many of Sullivan's childhood friends attended the ceremony.
"Narson was the type of person that, if you just knew him for a couple of minutes, you felt like you?ve known him forever," said Sullivan's high school friend Ryan Revetto, 21. "He was always happy and smiling. He would do anything in his power to cheer someone up, even if it meant making a complete fool of himself."
Kasey Smith, 22, said she often sat with Sullivan on the bus on the way to school.
"He would joke around a lot. We shared a lot of good times," Smith said. "Narson was also a stand-up guy. He made sure everyone was treated fairly. When you were around him, you knew you always had somebody there to stick up for you," Smith said.
Nicole Kriqui, 19, a lifelong friend of Sullivan, remembered him as "terrific," "polite" and "a sweetheart with a good heart."
"He is the only person I know that would rollerblade all around town and walk his dog at the same time," Kriqui said.
"He really was the most polite kid I've ever met," Kriqui's mother, Janice, added. "Whenever he would speak to me, it was yes ma'am, no ma'am."
During the ceremony, Superintendent of the Board of Middlesex County Vocational & Technical Schools Joseph Columbo remembered when Sullivan would visit the school after graduation, dressed in his military uniform.
"He visited, proudly wearing his Army uniform and he thought very fully of what that uniform stood for and what it required," Columbo said.
Sullivan graduated from the East Brunswick campus in 2000. While there, he studied the culinary arts and played varsity soccer.
Sullivan entered the Army on August 11, 2000.
At the time of his death, Sullivan was serving in a forward operations area in Iraq while assigned to the 411 Military Police Company out of Fort Hood, Texas, according to military officials.
He was one of 1,000 military police troops and 19,000 other troops to be deployed from the fort, according to spokesperson Cecil Green.
During the ceremony, the U.S. Army color guard and Capt. Matthew Schramm saluted their fallen comrade.
"The Army is a close-knit family. The loss of one affects us all. We are all hurt by his loss as a brother in arms," Schramm said. "Two months ago he bravely moved deep into Iraq and willingly and courageously put his life on the line for freedom and democracy. On behalf of the Army, I extend heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends."
Columbo said, "Narson will be missed, but never forgotten."
In honor of Sullivan, the vocational school held a fund-raising luncheon Tuesday afternoon.
Students from the culinary arts program prepared food for the luncheon, during which the school collected funds to begin a scholarship in honor of Sullivan.
"We are establishing an award in Narson's name," Colombo said. "Every year, one graduating senior who best exemplifies the caring, companionship, respect for authority, politeness, maturity and character that Narson did will receive this scholarship."
The North Brunswick Township High School Student Government presented the vocational school with a $50 check on Tuesday to put toward the Sullivan scholarship, according to Assistant Principal Pete Clark.
"The loss of one child?s life is a family's greatest sorrow," Colombo said. "When it is a life with the quality of Narson's, it is a tragedy for all of us."