ABINGTON — Thousands of mourners attended the wake here on Wednesday for Marine Sergeant Daniel M. Vasselian, the local man who was killed in Afghanistan on Dec. 23 during his third combat tour.
Friends, town residents, and uniformed military personnel began lining the block outside Quealy and Son Funeral Home on Adams Street long before calling hours began at 3 p.m.
Yellow ribbons were tied to trees and utility poles, and about two dozen people stood on the front lawn of the funeral home holding American flags in the biting cold. Area businesses continued to display signs paying tribute to Vasselian, with messages such as “Rest in Peace, Sgt. Vasselian” and “You Are a True Hero.”
Mike Russell, 58, became emotional when he told reporters outside that Vasselian will be buried at Mt. Vernon Cemetery near Russell’s late son, Jeremy, who was a close friend of the fallen Marine. Jeremy Russell died four years ago.
“We are here to honor our hero, and hope that we don’t have to go through this again,” Mike Russell said.
Asked what she planned to say to Vasselian’s family inside, Russell’s wife, Debbie, said in a soft voice that she would tell them “that we know how they’re feeling, and we’re very sorry for their loss.”
Richard Donovan, 79, of Abington, a family friend, was one of their first mourners to greet the Vasselians inside the funeral home.
“You’re sorry for their loss, and that’s about all you can say,” he said afterward. Friends and family have described Vasselian, 27, as “the life of any party” who was dedicated to his military service. He recently celebrated his fourth wedding anniversary with his wife, Erin.
Ed Bryan, 57, of Malden, a retired Army staff sergeant who served in Desert Storm, said he came to the wake to support the family of a fellow veteran. “It’s a sad day for the family, sad day for the veterans,” he said. “There’s no words for it.”
A funeral Mass will be said at 9 a.m. Thursday for Vasselian at St. Bridget Church in Abington. He will be laid to rest just 10 days after a funeral was held for another Marine from Massachusetts, Lance Corporal Matthew R. Rodriguez, 19, of Fairhaven.
The men were killed in combat less than two weeks apart in Helmand province.
A friend of Vasselian told the Globe on Tuesday that he last saw him in August, when they stayed out until 3 a.m. at Jeremy Russell’s grave.
Mike Russell said Wednesday that he felt “blessed” to know that Vasselian will be near his son.
“We are as close of a community as can be, and these kids, they’ve just been great together for so many years,” he said. “They have such a tight bond.”
He said of Vasselian, “We’re just blessed to have known him, and to have him so close.”