Proctor remembers slain soldier
Justin Garvey was third Vermonter to die in Iraq
By Andy Netzel

PROCTOR Yellow ribbons hung from a few doors, and an occasional flag flapped at half-mast, but the grief over losing a hometown boy to the war in Iraq wasn't illustrated through the sparse traditional symbols here in Proctor.

The small town of 1,877 residents showed its anguish over his death through people like John Pockett, who sat nursing a beer and telling stories at Morgan's Spirits and Food. He was more than just the third Vermonter to die while fighting in Iraq. He was Justin Garvey.

He was a 23-year-old man who married his high school sweetheart a girl who lived a few doors down from him. You remember Garvey? He's the one who used to live on Beaver Pond Road. The guy who was into country music and cars.

"He was always messing with that big, black Chevy of his," Pockett told the people gathered around the bar.

Garvey, a sergeant in the 101st Airborne Division of Fort Campbell, Ky., was near Tal Afar when his convoy was hit by small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades. He died Sunday, a couple of days after he was initially scheduled to leave the Middle East. He was the 233rd U.S. serviceman to die since the beginning of military operations in Iraq.

Proctor is too big a town for everyone to know each other, but not too big for everyone to have at least been introduced. The news of Garvey's death had already spread through the town before the story hit the television or local newspapers.

Christine Rafter heard about Garvey's fate through the school librarian. Garvey mowed Rafter's lawn when he was in junior high school.

"When he used to work on the lawn, we would laugh," she said. "He was so gung-ho with the lawn mowing. If we gave him more money than we'd agree to, a huge smile would come across his face. Ear to ear."

Rafter, a secretary in the guidance office, doesn't remember every student she has seen during her 15 years at Proctor High School, but she remembers Garvey. Rafter watched Garvey and Katie Lynn Garner fall in love in the hallways.

Above Garvey's smile was often a cowboy hat, said Garvey's neighbor Kevin Beauregard. Beauregard found out about the loss from wife Katie's stepfather, who had come down the street to break the news.

Garvey used to wander two houses down to talk to Beauregard about his life, or to tinker with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Beauregard later sold it to Garvey, but he didn't get much use out of it.

"He only rode that thing once, I think. It must have scared him," he said. "He bought a dirt bike after that."

Proctor is a town that holds on tight to its history. The town's main industry was the manufacturing of marble rock. The bridge that connects the two sides of town is made of marble. There's even a marble museum.

Residents reminisced about the Proctor High School's soccer championships. The last one the team won was in 1996. Garvey was on the team, a sophomore in high school, then. He played offense. Many in town boast about the school's soccer dominance in the 1960s.

It appears memories of Garvey are ingrained in the town as well. If not yet, many said they desire it to be.

"I certainly hope they plan on erecting a memorial of some type," Frances FitzGerald said, sitting on a stoop near the town's center. "My husband was in the last World War. It's especially sad when something like this hits home in Proctor."

She didn't know Garvey personally, although she said she must have met him at some point. A car pulled up with a friend of FitzGerald's.

"You hear about that young man? Garvey?" FitzGerald asked.

Justin Garvey. You know, the guy who was due back from the Army in July.

Contact Andy Netzel at 660-1867 or anetzel@bfp.burlingtonfreepress.com.

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