Mourners gather to remember slain Navy petty officer

Posted: August 19, 2011

A three-volley-rifle salute by seven Navy sailors and a flag-folding presentation to family members in Logan Square marked the end of formal ceremonies Thursday afternoon in honor of slain Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Strange, of Northeast Philly.

In the bright sun, with water spraying off the nearby Swann Memorial Fountain, Navy Rear Admiral William E. Leigher knelt and presented a folded flag to Strange's mother, Elizabeth "Betsy" Strange, a Philadelphia police officer, then to Strange's father, Charles Strange Jr.

As he handed a third flag to Strange's fiancée, Breanna Hostetler, she hugged it to her heart.

Strange, 25, was a Navy cryptologist technician who was assigned to a Navy SEAL team. He died in the early morning of Aug. 6 in eastern Afghanistan after the helicopter he was in was shot down by insurgents, killing 30 U.S. troops and eight Afghans.

Before the traditional volley of rifle shots, Strange's best friend, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Ian Regnier told those gathered at the fountain: "Michael never settled for less than the best. He pushed himself to the limit."

He added: "Michael is a brother to all of us. He was a humble man, not the bragging type."

The mourners earlier gathered at the Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul to pay their wishes to the family and for a funeral Mass by Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia.

Rigali told the hundreds in the cathedral: "The circumstances of his [Strange's] death reveal again how the young, the innocent, the peace-loving of this generation are so deeply affected by the violent conflicts of the world that find their origin in the reality of evil, in the mystery of iniquity."

Maggie O'Brien, Strange's aunt, read a statement in the morning to reporters outside.

"Today, as we bring Michael to his final resting place, we remember him as a son, a brother, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin, a friend, a fiancé, and a hero," she said.

"Mike had an undeniable presence about him. His sharp sense of humor and wide, warm smile left an impression on everyone who crossed his path."

She added that "Mike was killed doing what he loved."

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