Fallen Navy SEAL honored for life and service

| By Susan Klemond For The Catholic Spirit | August 22, 2011 | 0 Comments

A member of the Patriot Guard salutes as the casket of Nick Spehar is carried into St. Paul Cathedral Aug. 20. Photo by Dianne Towalski

Remembered as brave, selfless, disciplined and determined, Navy SEAL Nick Spehar of Chisago City was laid to rest Friday following a funeral Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul honoring the life of the 24-year-old soldier.

Presiding at the Mass was Spehar’s uncle and godfather, Father Jeff Huard, St. Paul Seminary director of spiritual formation.  Describing his nephew as a strong man who could enjoy humor but also thought deeply, Father Huard said, “He could climb a mountain and survive. He was a man who could heal and pray.”

Special Warfare Operator Second Class Nicholas Spehar was killed along with 30 other U.S. service personnel including 22 Navy SEALS on Aug. 6 when their Chinook helicopter was shot down over Afghanistan.

Two dozen priests concelebrated at the funeral, which was attended by state officials. Spehar’s teammates from SEAL team five served as pallbearers and the three-quarters-full Cathedral was dotted with military members of different branches in uniform. Law enforcement and fire and rescue workers also attended the funeral.

Zeal for service

Before the Mass, Spehar’s older sister, Marie Mielke, shared thoughts and memories about her brother, including a story revealing the fearless determination that would one day make him a member of the Naval Special Warfare unit.

While babysitting Spehar, her two other brothers and sister when they were growing up, Mielke once asked him to load the dishwasher. He refused and instead got out of his chore by jumping from a second-story window.

When he got older, that zeal was channeled into service for his family, Mielke said. “He never was afraid to take on anything and he took all on, but never said anything. It was just his way of showing he loved us.”

To Spehar, faith and family were worth the ultimate sacrifice and he gave himself to the sacrifice, Father Huard said.

Spehar told family during a recent trip home that he was going into hell and told them to give him all their pain and suffering so he could bring it there, Mielke said.

Citing Mother Teresa’s well-known quote, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” she added, “I believe that’s what he did.”

Mielke expressed gratitude for her brother’s life and service. “I praise God and thank him for giving me for 24 years the most incredible brother,” she said. “For the rest of my life I will celebrate my brother.”

Bringing honor

In times of great sorrow such as this, God’s Word will see us through, said Father Huard, citing the first reading from Lamentations, “The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent. They are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness.”

With Spehar’s legacy is the honor he brought to us, Father Huard said. “Nick, we were proud of you in life and now you honor us in death.”

In a tribute to Spehar, his brother Luke Spehar revealed love for the Lord and his brother, even amidst the pain of loss in his song called, “My Cross.”  (Excerpt below)

Pick up your cross my son,
and follow me.
the pain overwhelms my brain
but I still hear his voice clearly …

The road is long my son
I won’t lie to you.
many good men have fallen
walking though
but I will hold you up, I will help you stand
if you ask me to, if you ask me to …

Seldom is the road we travel the road we want.
but this battle of life we face
must be fought.

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