Becket Kiernan is remembered as a young man with a warm heart and a caring nature who felt a sense of fulfillment because he was living his dream -- to be a U.S. Marine.
At 18, Becket Kiernan was a driven young man with a big heart, great smile and infectious laugh who was living the life he always wanted: as a Marine.
Kiernan, who was from Rochester, died suddenly Feb. 5 at Twentynine Palms Marine base in California from an aggressive bacterial infection called Necrotizing Fasciitis, according to a Facebook post by his mother, Lynda Kiernan.
"All Becket ever wanted since he was young was to be a Marine and to help people, and we are so proud of him," his mother wrote online. "There are no words yet created to express how my heart is broken."
The 2017 graduate of Old Rochester Regional High School, thrived in the environment of the Fall River Young Marines, a coed, youth organization for boys and girls, ages 8 to 18, earning high praise from adult leaders.
He spent a little over six years in the Young Marines, where he distinguished himself by earning the rank of Young Marine Master Gunnery Sgt., the highest rank one can obtain in the organization, said Frank Andrade, Unit commander and a Marine.
Andrade said Kiernan was a perfectionist, humble with a caring nature and an overwhelming devotion to the 50 Young Marines under his charge. He "single-handedly" organized the Young Marines' Toys For Tots program, picking up the toys for disadvantaged children and delivering them to the Marine Corps League for distribution.
"His lifelong goal was to become a Marine. He would not be able to sleep unless everything was taken care of with his Young Marines," Andrade said.
"The world is a lesser place without him. He was a great all-around young man," said Patrick McMahon, the Young Marines' Regimental commander and a Marine, further describing him as a man among his peers. "I'm a better person for having had him around me. He was challenging, inquisitive," he said.
"His positive attitude was a true inspiration not only to myself, but to every person that was graced with his presence. He was a born leader and wise beyond his years," said Michael K. Hoar, a retired Fall River police officer and the executive officer of the Fall River Young Marines the last three years.
In an ORR student profile, published by the school, Kiernan acknowledged how the Young Marines made him a better person and urged his peers to pursue a field that is rewarding. "(Through Young Marines) I got in shape, and became more confident. Although there's still room to improve, I became an all-round better person over the years. Do something that, when you look back on life, you will feel fulfilled. Don't chase money, do something that makes you happy, and don't stop working until you get there."
Universally liked by his classmates, Kiernan was a member of the school's National Honor Society and an Advanced Placement student, while at ORR. "Old Rochester lost a true leader and friend last week. ... Becket was an inspiration to all at ORRHS and his passing has impacted the entire community," the school wrote on Facebook.
"I don't know anyone who would say a bad word about him," said Michael Devoll, ORR principal, noting Kiernan's popularity with his peers.
Devoll said this is a difficult time for staff at the school, who now just eight months after his graduation, have to accept his death. "He was one of those kids you never forget as a teacher," he said.
Kiernan stood out as a student because of his dedication to becoming a Marine. "I've never met a student who entered Old Rochester with such a focus, determination and conviction for what was important to him and what he wanted," Devoll said. "He was fulfilling a lifelong dream."
Friends Amy Salvadore and Cynthia Alfama have started a GoFundMe page in Becket's honor, https://www.gofundme.com/remembering-becket-kiernan.
A wake is scheduled for 2 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Saunders-Dwyer Funeral Home in Mattapoisett, followed by a funeral Mass at 9:30 a.m. Friday at St. Anthony’s Church in Mattapoisett. Burial will follow at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.
Follow Curt Brown on Twitter @CurtBrown_SCT