WINCHESTER — Glen Doherty felt he owed a debt, and he intended to pay it.
“He loved [life] so much that he wanted to work for it,” his brother, Greg Doherty, told 600 mourners Wednesday. “He wanted to pay back life and be able to say at the pearly gates: Thank you. And, you’re welcome.”
Family and friends gathered in St. Eulalia Parish to remember Doherty, a former Navy SEAL who was killed, along with US Ambassador John Christopher Stevens and two other men, last week in an attack on the American consulate in Libya. Doherty reportedly had been working as a security contractor at the time.
As mourners filled the pews to hear stories about the 42-year-old, hundreds more lined the streets as the Winchester native’s remains were brought to the church.
“He died protecting people because he believed in humanity,” Doherty said. “He believed in humanity because his friends taught him . . . the value of life.”
During the service, a folded flag rested atop a glass chest that held a case containing his cremated remains. A Navy serviceman in a white uniform and gloves presented the flag to Doherty’s mother, holding his forehead close to hers as he whispered words of consolation.
In Navy SEAL tradition, officers thumped their trident pins into a slab of polished wood, also given to Doherty’s mother.
Before the funeral, throngs of teenagers exited Winchester High School — Doherty’s alma mater — to await the funeral procession.
“It’s very sad,” said Brie Silva, 16, a junior, “but also I kind of feel honored in a way to be here, because he was so important.”
Few details have been released about the attack in Benghazi, which is being investigated by US and Libyan officials. US officials say it’s possible gunmen hijacked what had been a spontaneous protest against an anti-Islamic movie made in the United States.
Greg Doherty said his brother was called to help rescue employees inside the consulate. Before he died, Glen Doherty was able to repel violent protesters and shepherd 30 people to safety at a guarded house 20 minutes away, Greg said.
The Rev. James W. Savage, who presided over the funeral, said it was a bitter irony that Doherty was killed in violence apparently sparked by religious extremism. Doherty had worked to increase religious tolerance, Savage said.
“It breaks my heart that Glen would be killed because he found himself ensnared between the crosshairs of religious zealots, be they Christian or Muslims,” Savage said.
Savage quoted the book of John — “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” — then compared Doherty to Hector of Troy, the hero from Greek mythology who demonstrated kindness and courage in equal parts before he died protecting his home.
Doherty’s spirit, Savage said, was “untameable, unpredictable, and free.”
Shafts of turquoise and magenta light — filtered through stained glass windows — tinted the faces of solemn mourners as Greg Doherty spoke slowly and extemporaneously as he described his brother’s drive to “love, and to step up, and to work.”
The brother’s eulogy, which lasted almost 25 minutes, was tinged with humor, prompting chuckles.
“It’s a good thing we grew up on Glen Road,” Greg Doherty said, “or we’d have to name it that now.”
Greg said he began admiring his brother in junior high school, though Glen was the younger brother. Greg had taken the cool track, trying to rise in the school’s social ranks; his brother stuck with old friends and refused to let bullies call them “losers.”
“They’re with me,” Glen asserted, his brother recalled.
Doherty had worked as a whitewater rafting guide and ski instructor before joining the Navy and serving as a SEAL for a decade. After, he began working as a security contractor. Doherty loved the pace of military work, his brother said — the constant training and preparation for missions.
On breaks, Glen came home to reconnect with family.
At the end of each visit, after everyone else went to sleep, Glen insisted his brother stay up to have another beer. He asked the questions he always asked: Where’s your life going? Are you happy?
So many of the memories they shared were moments on the move, Greg Doherty said. As kids, they squished like sardines in sleeping bags in the back of their parents’ station wagon, driving to a ski vacation.
Later in life, the brothers ventured on skiing or whitewater rafting trips together, “carving down powdery canyons . . . rumbling down rivers.”
It was a feeling that never changed, Greg said: “The feeling of being with Glen was, ‘Here we are, going somewhere.’ ”
Correction: An earlier version of this story had the incorrect name of Glen Doherty in the online headline.