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Hundreds line streets to pay respects to Meaghan Burns

  • Community members line the streets of South Deerfield as police escort fallen Navy corpsman Meaghan Burns past the Town Common to Wrisley Funeral Home on Tuesday evening. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Community members were quiet as the hearse passed. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • VFW members stand in solidarity with community members lining the streets of South Deerfield as police escort fallen Navy corpsman Meaghan Burns passed the Town Common to Wrisley Funeral Home on Tuesday evening. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Community members carrying flags line the streets of Deerfield on Tuesday evening to honor the late Meaghan Burns. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Community members watch as the hearse carrying the remains of Meaghan Burns passes in a police escort.  STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Community members pay their respects as police escort fallen Navy corpsman Meaghan Burns past the Deerfield Town Common to Wrisley Funeral Home on Tuesday evening. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 5/14/2019 11:33:19 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Hundreds stood quietly on the town common Tuesday night to pay their respects to the late Meaghan Burns, as she made her way through her hometown one final time.

Eleven days ago, Burns, a 23-year-old active-duty U.S. Navy corpsman, was shot to death near her station in Portsmouth, Va.

More than an hour before the procession made its way through town via a police escort, the common began to fill with residents, many carrying flags and candles to show support for Burns and her family.

Among them was Deerfield’s Pat Misiun, who recalled getting to know Burns while working at Frontier Regional School’s office. Burns graduated from Frontier in 2013.

“She was just super bubbly, a really great girl,” Misiun said.

Deerfield, Massachusetts and Greenfield Police escorted a hearse and other vehicles from Bradley International Airport to Wrisley Funeral Home on Sugarloaf Street.

Sharyn Paciorek of Deerfield helped organize the tribute as a member of the Memorial Day Committee.

“This is a wonderful, wonderful child. Just devastating for the community at this point, as you can see,” Paciorek said.

Charlie Ramon of South Deerfield attended the tribute with his daughter, Allyson to offer support for “one of our own.”

“A young lady, wrong place, wrong time. Serving her country, her life ahead of her. Unbelievable,” Ramon said. “But you can see the turnout of a small community.”

Many mourners had ties to the military. Tricia Hatch, present at the tribute, said she felt especially affected by Burns’ death as her sister, Cassie Ackerson was until recently an active member of the Navy stationed in Norfolk Va. Hatch brought her 7-year-old son Topher along.

“We try and support the military and our first responders as much as we can, and I try to set a good example for my son,” Hatch said. “But when I heard the story … I didn’t even think about it. I knew I was going to come out rain or shine.”

Jim Bouchard, a Commander of the Military of the Purple Heart, attended the event to support the Burns and her family. Bouchard said his son returned to home from Afghanistan in 2012.

“It’s really close to my heart,” Jim said. “She’s in the military and she didn’t make it.”

Bouchard’s daughter Irene, an associate member of the military, was visibly affected by Burns’ death, wiping away tears as she spoke.

“It’s terrible,” Irene Bouchard said. “I can’t imagine what this family is going through.”

As part of the military, Irene Bouchard said she will show up for other members “no matter what, in colors and with flags and everything.”

South Deerfield’s Linda Schaefer said she hoped to offer some support for Burns and her family, especially as her husband’s two sons are both active members of the military.

“Even though we don’t know her, we just felt we had to be there, just to show our support to the family,” Schaefer said.

Burns was one of three active-duty Navy corpsmen killed in what police are calling a double homicide and suicide. She and Shianne Taylor Soles were shot to death on the night of May 4 outside a 7-Eleven convenience store in Portsmouth, Va.

When officers arrived at the scene they found a man identified as Donavon Moora in a vehicle in the parking lot of a Dollar General at 1711 Effingham St., according to a statement from the Portsmouth (Va.) Police Department. Moora, 22, was pronounced dead at the scene after suffering from a self-inflicted injury to his upper body. He was also active-duty military and was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Burns is survived by her father, Matthew, mother, Carolyn, and younger sister, Kyleigh Rose. Her father previously said the family were informed of the news when they were visited by U.S. Navy representatives and Deerfield Police officers around 5 p.m. Sunday.

“Meaghan was the innocent victim of senseless gun violence while trying to help a friend,” her obituary says. “Meggy was a free spirit, a fierce and loyal friend and loving daughter and sister. She will be missed by many and loved forever.”

Reach Grace Bird at or 413-772-0261, ext. 280.

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