Cpl. Nicholas Rapavi

(reprinted from, December 9, 2006)
Marine’s funeral proceeds with dignity
The funeral of a Marine killed in Iraq and held at the memorial chapel aboard the Quantico Marine Corps base Friday was solemn and sad – and untouched by a religious group protesting outside of the base front gate.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” said the Rev. Thomas Palke, a retired Army chaplain, to the parents of Marine Cpl. Nicholas P. Rapavi of Alexandria.

Rapavi was killed Nov. 24 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province of Iraq.

Almost all 500 seats of the chapel were filled with mourners, many of them young adults and likely friends of the 22-year-old Marine.

They stood in silence as the flag-draped coffin of the Marine was escorted into the chapel by Marines in their Dress Blue uniforms. Other Marines in Dress Blues also attended, including a Marine in a wheelchair who was missing most of his legs.

Rapavi’s family arrived at the chapel long before the protesters gathered outside the gate. The funeral procession did not get under way until after the protesters had left. Since it went out the back gate of the base, it is likely they never saw the group.

“Those who knew Nick know he is in a better place,” Palke said during the funeral. Palke is a friend of the Rapavi family and his son joined the Marine Corps and went to boot camp at Parris Island with Nicholas Rapavi.

“Nick was and will always be a hero in our hearts,” Palke said. “He gave his today so we can enjoy our tomorrow. I’m sure when Nick died, a tear rolled down he face of our Savior.”

Also during he funeral, the chaplain spoke of Rapavi’s devotion to his country and to his fellow Marines.

“He was a friend to his band of brothers. The few – and sadly today – the fewer, the proud and the brave Marines,” Rapavi said.

After leaving the Quantico chapel, the procession proceeded to Arlington National Cemetery for burial.