BETHLEHEM, N.H. (AP) – Nearly 1,000 mourners packed a church, its basement and a tent outside as they said farewell to a National Guard combat medic killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Sgt. David Stelmat’s memorial service was held under snowy skies Monday in Bethlehem, not far from his hometown of Littleton. Stelmat, 27, planned to become a physician’s assistant when he returned home.

Spc. Adam Rich served with Stelmat in Iraq with the 237th Military Police Company of the New Hampshire Army National Guard. He remembered his friend as “a good, funny and charismatic person.”

Stelmat and two other soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb on March 22.

“David was one of the best soldiers I worked with, hands down,” said Spc. Rich Colcord, another member of the unit. He said members from New Hampshire’s rural North Country stuck together.

“It’s a brotherhood that’s hard to describe unless you’ve been through it,” he said.

“I wish there was something I could say to ease the pain of the family. They should be very proud of who he was and what he’s done. He was the epitome of what a soldier should be.”

Heavy, wet snow fell as family and mourners, including Gov. John Lynch, flocked to the New Life Assembly of God Church. Those not in the sanctuary saw the service live by video.

“This community and this state joins with you in grief,” said Lynch. “Please know you are not alone. The community and the whole state of New Hampshire is here for you.”

Alan Campbell said Stelmat was a prankster, always making others laugh, at Profile High School in the late 1990s.

“He was still a clown, but he found his focus helping others,” said Campbell, a school guidance counselor. “He matured into the person he was meant to be.”

Stelmat’s mother, Maryanne Rennell, said last week her son always wanted to help others and joined the military after high school in hopes of becoming a medic. It didn’t happen during his first stint as an Army rifleman in Afghanistan.

His mother said he refused an order during a night operation because he was afraid of killing or injuring civilians. The Army gave him a general discharge, but back at home, he soon started working to become an emergency medical technician and to get back into uniform as a medic.

The Rev. Stephen Bascom Sr. referred to that history at the service, calling Stelmat “deeply patriotic, but more deeply humanitarian.”

David Stelmat Sr. of Centerville, Ohio, was a Marine during the Vietnam war. He had one of the ministers read a statement at the service.

“We are all so very proud of you, son, and our love for you will never diminish,” the father said.


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