Newton's Fallen Soldiers Since 9/11: David Connolly
Sept. 11 changed the lives of everyone who then enlisted in the military. For one Newton man, that resulted in death.
The questions are carved in the stone of a memorial bench right near the quiet veterans' memorial at Boston College:
"CAN YOU DO MORE, CAN YOU DO BETTER, CAN YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE?"
Then, also carved in stone, are some of the most basic facts of David S. Connolly's life:
Major, U.S. Army
Operation Enduring Freedom
December 12, 1967 - April 6, 2005. Class of 1994
Connolly, who grew up in Newton Highlands and was a Boston College graduate, died when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter in which he was riding crashed some 80-miles south of Kabul, Afghanistan, killing everyone onboard.
According to an Associated Press story at the time, the crew had been delivering people, mail and supplies when it went down. Officials said there had been no reports of enemy fire.
The soldier's obituary posted in the Boston College Chronicle details both Connolly's military and civilian life, including his work as an assistant district attorney with Suffolk County, a position he held until his Brockton-based company was called to active duty.
Connolly's sister, Nancy Sperry, said her brother was in the National Guard on Sept. 11, 2001.
"His immediate response was, 'you know that I'll be leaving sometime soon,'" said Sperry. "He knew the second that [the 9/11 attack] happened that it was a terrorist attack; he immediately understood the magnitude of it."
Sperry said he switched from the Guard to the Reserves because he wanted to be more actively involved.
He served a tour of duty in Iraq, and then volunteered for his deployment in Afghanistan, says Sperry.
"He wanted to be a part of it; he jumped on it."
And of course, says Sperry, "it changed everything."
Connolly's siblings, including his sister Marguerite Connolly, who is principal of Williams Elementary School in Newton, started a foundation named for David because "it helped us take action," says Sperry.
The Major David S. Connolly Foundation provides a scholarship for a college student pursuing a degree in military science, law or history.
She says the foundation had a five-year goal to endow a scholarship, and they have now have their first scholarship recipient, Yoonsoo (Tina) Jung.
The foundation money also helped build the veterans' memorial wall at Boston College, where Connolly and several of his siblings had been graduates. Connolly was also in ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) at BC and was the first graduate of the program to be killed in action.
There's much more to Maj. David S. Connolly's life: he dropped out of high school to enlist in the Coast Guard; he was married to Debra Toran Connolly; he was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star.
But Connolly's legacy may be best summarized in those haunting questions on his memorial bench: Can you do more? Can you do better? Can you make a difference?