William Joseph Callahan – Staff Sergeant, United States Marine Corps

U.S. Department of Defense

Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release
April 30, 2007
DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sergeant William J. Callahan, 28, of South Easton, Masschusetts, died April 27, 2007, while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq.  Callahan was assigned to 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

7 May 2007:

Hero’s funeral: Flags to line route of procession
Courtesy of the The Patriot Ledger

There will be a sea of red, white and blue American flags along the procession route for the funeral of Marine Sergeant William J. Callahan.

‘‘We plan to pass them out to schoolchildren and others we hope will come and line the route,’’ Easton Veterans Agent Stephen Nolan said yesterday.

Callahan, 28, a Hanson native, was killed April 27, 2007, in Al Anbar province in Iraq.


A funeral Mass for Callahan, the husband of Amy Callahan of Easton and the father of a 3-week-old son he never met, will be celebrated at 10 a.m. tomorrow in Immaculate Conception Church, Easton. Callahan’s burial is tentatively set for Thursday at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

The funeral procession will pass along Center Street from the the Copeland-MacKinnon Funeral Home and go west on Main Street to the church.

Nolan said he has purchased 700 small American flags to be handed out along the half-mile funeral procession route.

Nolan plans to ask Easton School Superintendent William Simmons if students might be allowed to leave school at 9:30 or 9:45 a.m. tomorrow so they can join the 200 Marines and approximately 200 veterans expected to be along the procession route.

A contingent from the Marine Corps League will distribute the flags to people along the route. Nolan said the League’s Metro South Detachment, of which he is a member, will be on hand.

‘‘We are requesting that people will show up to honor this Marine, his wife and child,’’ Nolan said.

On Saturday afternoon, the Sons of the American Legion of Hanson, Post 226, sponsored a raising of the U.S. and Marine Corps flags on a 20-foot flagpole erected Friday on the front lawn of the home of Sgt. Callahan’s mother, Mary Ellen Callahan, in Hanson. Town police, Hanson Veterans Agent Robert Arsenault, clergy and community members also attended the ceremony.

Callahan’s uncle, Jeffrey Sullivan of Marshfield, requested the flagpole tribute and the Sons of the American Legion post hurried to arrange it, according to Ray Scott, a member, and John Gurry, the post commander. Tony Roderick, the Sons of American Legion chaplain, said a prayer at the ceremony.

‘‘The family was very, very touched,’’ said Brian Crowley, a close friend of the family who lives with Mary Ellen Callahan. More than 30 people attended.

‘‘We’ve never done anything like that before, but this is the first person from Hanson we’ve lost in Iraq,’’ Gurry said. ‘‘Our organization is about doing things for others, and we just wish we could do more for someone who gave the ultimate sacrifice.’’

Mary Ellen Callahan and her family held the first of two wakes yesterday at Copeland-MacKinnon Funeral Home. The second wake will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. today.

Mary Ellen Callahan and Amy Callahan are coping as well as can be expected, Crowley said.

Callahan enlisted in the active Marines after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Crowley said.

‘‘He had been in the Reserve, and he signed up because he felt this country was worth fighting for – and then he re-enlisted and went back to Iraq a second time,’’ Crowley said.

Crowley met Callahan when he was 16 or 17 and said that even as a teenager, Callahan was firmly set in his values.

‘‘You knew Bill was on his way. He had all the strength of his mother, as far as believing in God, doing the right thing. He had his own barometer of what was right and wrong, and it was global,’’ Crowley said.

Born in Weymouth, Callahan was a 1997 graduate of Whitman-Hanson Regional High School. He joined the Marine Corps Reserve in September 1997 and was trained as an ordnance disposal technician for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The Marine Corps Engineer Association named Callahan its explosive ordnance technician of the year in 2006.

On November 1, 2005, he had disposed of a bomb in Ramadi when a second bomb detonated beneath his team’s vehicle, killing Marine Sergeant Daniel Tsue and Navy Petty Officer Allan Cundanga Espiritu. Callahan’s son, Daniel Allan Callahan, is named for Tsue and Espiritu.

Callahan had never seen his son, who was born April 10, 2007.

Friends and relatives attend wake of Marine Sergeant William J. Callahan
By Mike Underwood

Hundreds of mourners gathered Sunday to pay their respects to the family of the late Marine Sergeant William Callahan, who was killed in Iraq.

The 28-year-old from Easton was killed on April 27,2007, during combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq.

He leaves behind Daniel, the 3-week-old son he will never hold, and his wife, Amy, 29.

“To hear of any death is horrible but when I heard about Billy it was awful,” said Sergeant Rory Thornton, 25, who served eight years in the Marines with Callahan in South America and Japan.

“In the most miserable times and conditions, you would look at him and he would have this big, goofy smile and that always helped you get through it,” Thornton said. “He was a really good friend, a really good Marine and we miss him dearly.”

Thornton was one of a dozen Marines who gathered in full uniform at the Copeland-MacKinnon Funeral Home on Center Street for the wake.

“He was the kind of guy that had no enemies. He was a towering guy with a magnetic personality. No one who ever met Billy disliked him,” said Sergeant Justin Cuellar, 32, who served with Callahan for five years in South America.

“Before I was due to go out to Iraq, I phoned him and he drove from here to Rhode Island to come and have a beer with me. That was the way he was.”

Easton police closed Center Street as family, friends, townspeople, servicemen and women and war veterans made their way to the wake.

“He was a solid guy with a great heart — an outstanding person,” said 26-year-old Matt Nelson of Holbrook, a close friend of the fallen soldier.

One mourner buried her head in her hands and sobbed as a lone bagpiper, Chris Spitaleri, 13, of Wyndham, New Hampshire, played poignantly beneath a half-staff Stars and Stripes outside the funeral home.

The Patriot Guard Riders, a national group of motorcycle enthusiasts who honor fallen soldiers, their families and their communities, rode by carrying flags as a mark of respect.

Callahan was a 1997 graduate of Whitman-Hanson Regional High School and entered the Marines as a member of the explosive ordinance disposal company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force in Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Callahan was awarded the Purple Heart, posthumously; Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device; Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal; Combat Action Ribbon; Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal, with one Bronze Star in lieu of second award; National Defense Service Medal; Armed Forces Reserve Medal; Iraq Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, with three Bronze stars in lieu of fourth award.

He volunteered for Toys For Tots in the South Shore area, and also enjoyed Harley-Davidson motorcycles, going to the beach and working in his yard and around his home.

While Sgt. Callahan grew up in Rockland and Hanson, his wife is a native of Easton. After their wedding 10 years ago, the couple rented an apartment on Dongary Road in South Easton.

Family members respectfully asked to be left alone to mourn in peace.

A funeral will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday from Copeland-MacKinnon Funeral Home, followed by a funeral Mass at 10 a.m. in Immaculate Conception Church, Main Street, Easton.

Burial with full military honors will take place Thursday in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

9 May 2007:

Marine Sergeant William J. Callahan came home yesterday, home from Iraq in a dark-wood casket to a church overflowing with 500 relatives, friends, townspeople, and fellow Marines.

And there was another family member, honored by a kilted bagpiper who played “Danny Boy.” Cradled in a blanket in Immaculate Conception Church was Daniel A. Callahan, 28 days old, an only child that his father never saw.

But Callahan had heard his baby, the newborn's tiny voice carried by 21st-century technology to the Iraqi desert 6,000 miles away. In her eulogy, Mary Ellen Callahan recalled her son's awestruck reaction: ” ‘I never heard anything more beautiful in my whole life until . . . I heard him cry.' ”

“His ultimate goal was to become a daddy,” Callahan said.

But he was more, she added — a devoted husband to Amy, his “soul mate” of a decade; a son wise beyond his years; a loving brother to his sister; and the glue that held the small family together.


Hanson firefighters salute Sergeant William J. Callahan's casket as it goes by on Main Streeet in Easton Tuesday.
Sergeant Callahan was killed April 27 in Anbar province, Iraq.


Funeral for a Marine who never met his newborn


Townspeople pay their respects as Sergeant William J. Callahan's casket passes by on Main
Street in Easton during funeral services Tuesday.


Marine Staff Sergeant William J. Callahan's widow Amy holds their 4 week-old infant as she stands next to his
sister, Marissa, while Marines carry the casket into the Immaculate Conception Church during his funeral services in Easton.


A U.S. Marines honor guard salutes the casket of Staff Sergeant William J. Callahan as his wife Amy looks
on after his funeral service at Immaculate Conception Church in Easton Tuesday.


A U.S. Marine honor guard carries the casket of Staff Sergeant William J. Callahan into the Immaculate
Conception Church in Easton while his wife Amy holds onto their 4-week old infant. Standing next to Amy is Sergeant Callahan's sister Marissa.


Marines tend the casket of Staff Sergeant William J. Callahan following his funeral service while his
wife Amy looks on and his sister Marissa holds their 4 week-old infant.

“You're my brightest, shining star,” Callahan said, her voice breaking with emotion. “I love you.”

Soft, muffled cries punctuated the silence between readings during the funeral Mass, where Governor Deval Patrick and other dignitaries mixed with William Callahan's boyhood friends who had watched him play basketball at Whitman-Hanson Regional High School.

The scene before the funeral could have been a Fourth of July parade on a beautiful, warm, sun-splashed morning. American flags, large and small, hung from windows above dozens of onlookers who lined the sidewalks of hushed, quaint Main Street.

Marines in dress-blue uniforms marched past, followed by dozens of veterans from wars present and past. An open trailer filled with flowers moved slowly under a huge American flag suspended above the street.

As the entourage passed, State Police and local officers snapped their arms in salute. So did members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a national group of motorcycle enthusiasts who rode to Easton to honor and escort a fellow veteran.

Then came a carriage pulled by a motorcycle bearing Callahan's body. Finally, hundreds of mourners walked silently and solemnly to the church.

Callahan, 28, died in combat April 27, 2007, in Anbar Province during his second tour of dangerous duty as a bomb-disposal expert. Callahan, who joined the Marines in 2002, will be buried with full military honors tomorrow at Arlington National Cemetery. He is one of 53 service members from Massachusetts killed in Iraq since the war started four years ago.

Monsignor John A. Perry , the vicar general of the Diocese of Fall River, described Callahan: “He believed in Jesus. He believed in God. He believed in his family. And he believed in his country.”

Indeed, Callahan had managed to find a place for his spiritual beliefs amid the dust and danger of Iraq. Family and friends described him as a devout Catholic who set up an informal ministry for other Marines, who shared their concerns and worries with him.

He also was courageous. In 2005, on his first tour in Iraq, Callahan braved small-arms fire from insurgents to tend to Marines who had been wounded, some mortally, when a bomb exploded under their vehicle.

“My brother was born to be a Marine,” Marissa Callahan said in her eulogy.

Her only sibling, he would throw her over his shoulder and run around the house, Marissa said. “Everybody here knows how great Bill was,” she said.

An aunt, Donna Sullivan of Quincy, said that when she saw her nephew over Christmas, he was upbeat.

“How wouldn't he have been? Amy was pregnant,” Sullivan said after the service. “He would have made one heck of a dad.”

Roberta Bullock, another aunt, described Callahan “as an American hero, a real true-blue GI Joe,” who would have been proud of his mother's dignity at the service.

“He had gone to a [military] funeral before, and he was very saddened that there wasn't a big turnout,” Bullock said. “He would have loved this.”

After the Mass, after the Marine guard draped the casket with an American flag, the church bell tolled and 18 rifle shots cracked the air.

The mourners also heard the bagpipe play “Danny Boy,” the Irish ballad in which a father, who dies before his son, pledges to wait for him in the afterlife.

“If you'll not fail to tell me that you love me,” the song ends. “And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.”

10 May 2007:

U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant William J. Callahan, a Whitman-Hanson Regional High School graduate who lived in Hanson much of his life, is being remembered this week by those who knew him as a courageous man with a sense of duty.
“He was full of life,” said Kevin Black, his former gym teacher at the Hanson Middle School. “He loved gym, and he loved having a good time with his friends.”

Callahan, 28, was killed April 27, 2007, in Al Anbar province, Iraq. The Marine reportedly was trying to disarm a roadside bomb that was detonated by a nearby terrorist.

He leaves behind his wife, Amy, and a son, Daniel Allen, born last month. The baby is named for two members of Callahan’s unit, who perished during maneuvers November 1, 2005.

Callahan, stationed in his first tour with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, received a letter of commendation from his commanding officer for his heroic efforts during the night his friends perished. Callahan is credited with saving the lives of many by putting himself in harm’s way to ensure the safety of his unit.

Randy Gould, who lived in Hanson for 30 years and now lives in Hull, remembers Callahan because he was one of the tallest kids in town, and played with his son, Ron, in youth basketball teams He said his son also was extremely tall, so the boys often had to play on different teams.

“When you have only two tall kids in the town, you have to split them up,” he said.

He remembers driving by Callahan’s house, and seeing him outside all day long, shooting hoops. He also remembers that Callahan loved dirt bikes and motorcycles.

“He would drive his dirt bike around and around the house, so many times that there was a groove in the lawn,” he said.

Ron remembers Callahan as someone who always was a good friend and a devoted brother to his little sister.

“I remember he was always looking out for her,” he said.

Gould added that he always was smiling.

“He was always happy, always laughing and joking around,” he said.

Whitman-Hanson basketball coach William Sweeney, the director of pupil services at Whitman-Hanson, remembers Callahan as a “really nice kid. Everyone wanted him to succeed.”

Callahan, who graduated Whitman-Hanson in 1997, played for the team during part of his high school career.

Sweeney said Callahan would do anything to help out the team, and was not concerned with his individual achievements.

“He just enjoyed playing,” Sweeney said. “He didn’t have any grandiose goals. He was just a team player.”

Callahan, who started his high school career at Cardinal Spellman before transferring to Whitman-Hanson, also enjoyed being around other people. He had a lot of friends while attending school, according to those who are remembering him.

After graduating and joining the Marines in 2002, he came back several times to visit the school in uniform.

“He was extremely proud of what he accomplished,” Sweeney said.

Callahan joined the Marines in 2002, and was assigned to the Eighth Engineer Support Battalion, Second Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was trained as an explosive ordinance disposal technician.

Sweeney said that when he visited the school, he didn’t display any worries or fears about his dangerous position in the Marines.

“He never brought that up,” he said.

Both teachers said that they felt a tremendous sense of loss when they heard the news.

“I consider it a tragedy to lose a young vibrant person,” Black said. “We say our prayers for Bill and his family.”


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 08/15/1978
  • DATE OF DEATH: 04/28/2007

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