The impact that Marine Captain Matthew Patrick Manoukian had on people's lives was palpable Saturday afternoon at his funeral service in Mountain View.
Thirty minutes before the service, the gymnasium—where Manoukian and his mother Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian once danced together while he attended St. Francis High School—was three-quarters full. Friends, family, Marine Corps officers, members of the California judiciary, and law enforcement personnel all gathered to honor the 29-year-old captain's life—his character, leadership, courage, loyalty and willingness to sacrifice his life for others.
By the time the service began, the gym was packed. Gatherers who could not make it inside spilled out into the foyer.
In all, nearly 2,000 people listened, cried, laughed and contemplated how they would keep his memory alive. Manoukian was killed in action on Aug. 10, 2012 in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
Banners with the gold and brown accolades of St. Francis athletic teams hung from the ceiling in the gym, illuminated by the numerous bright medals glistening on the lapels of Marines in dress blues.
There were bittersweet hugs and short spurts of laughter. But there was marked reservation as well. While those attending looked thankful to see one another, their eyes often could be seen clouding over, upset at the circumstances. A few people visibly shed tears and gasped for air. Others dabbed tissue on their eyes.
Around 3:10 p.m., after the presentation of the flags by the Marine color guard, pallbearers entered the gymnasium through the southwest corner—the casket draped with an American flag. As the pallbearers turned the corner to walk up the center aisle, someone let out a wail.
Manoukian's mother, Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian, and dad, Socrates "Pete" Manoukian, walked slowly behind with distraught faces, looking over the length of their son's casket. Their two sons, Michael and Martin, served as pallbearers, carrying their brother, assisted by Captain Bryan J. Buckley and Captan Joseph R. Apkarian.
SFHS President Kevin Makley called Manoukian a quiet, unassuming leader, and explained how Manoukian exemplified the school's core Catholic values of integrity, respect and appreciation of family. "Now, he made the ultimate sacrifice," said Makley. "He became an extraordinary soldier, he became the teacher, and his lessons can carry on forever."
An uncle, William Bamattre, shared with the audience the story of how Manoukian wanted a care package sent overseas to him, but insisted the package only contain backpacks for the kids in Iraq. He wanted nothing for himself.
It reflected part of Manoukian's duties in Iraq and Afghanistan—village stabilization—and it showed the type of soldier he was.
"Matt was at the center of this effort," said Major General Paul Lefebvre. "Matt believed in this concept, and developed friendships with elders and the Afghan police. They could never get Matt to quit."
On several occasions photo slideshows were shown of the Manoukian family, and of Matthew Manoukian's deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he pulled a total of four tours. He joined the Marine Corps in 2005.
"My heart is completely broken, my life has changed forever," said Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian, thanking everyone for the food, visits, kindness and flowers. "Matt lived a happy fulfilling and wonderful life."
His father asked everyone not to feel sad.
"Be happy that he was able to do so much with so little," Pete Manoukian said.
Before Manoukian's parents left the stage, they were presented with the Purple Heart.
As he returned back to his seat, Pete Manoukin kissed the flag on his son's casket.
Noted attendees for the memorial included Bishop Thomas A. Daly; Major General Paul Lefebvre, Justice Kathleen O'Leary, fourth appellate district, division three court justice; and Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen.