Marine, Hickory Native Laid to Rest

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by Morgan Fogarty
Bio | Email | Follow: @morganfogarty by Photographer Chris Keimig
by Photographer Adam Stevens

HICKORY, N.C. - American flags lined the street outside Bass-Smith Funeral Home in Hickory.  The Patriot Guard and nearly 80 motorcycles stood guard as Lance Corporal Mason Vanderwork's family and friends filed past to pay their final respects.  The funeral brought together people who knew him well as well as those who'd lost touch.  Vanderwork's father hadn't seen his son in three years.  Kevin Hallberg says, "This is still just hard to deal with.  I'm just, I'm very proud of him."

Laura Good's son was a high school friend of Vanderwork's and a fellow Marine.  "Mason was an amazing, amazing man. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it," says Good.

Vanderwork joined the Marines in 2010.  He spent time in both Kuwait and Afghanistan.  Good says the 21-year-old's death is a reminder of the danger military men and women face every day, no matter where they are in the world.  She says, "It scares you to death."

Hickory Mayor Rudy Wright says even thought he never met the young man, he is proud of Vanderwork.  "It was clear from the eulogies that he was just an all-American young man," says Wright.

After the service at the funeral home, friends and family drove to St. Stephen's High School, Vanderwork's Alma mater.  There, they shared more memories of the young man who gave his life protecting the country he loved.  His grandfather Terry Vanderwork says, "He got along with everybody, he didn't argue, fight, with anybody.  Just a lovable person.  He got along with everyone."

His mom Melissa Vanderwork says tearfully, "I told him the other day, I said 'Mason, this is not goodbye.  This is I will see you soon.  It may not be today.  It may not be tomorrow.  But it'll be one day.'" 

Vanderwork, who was married, would have turned 22 next month.  The other Marines killed in the training exercise ranged in ages 19 to 26. 

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