SALEM, N.H. — Crazy hats, worn T-shirts, a passion for adventure and a loud, hearty laugh — that was Shawn Hogan.
Approximately 200 people paid their last respects to the 28-year-old Army captain and Green Beret during a funeral service yesterday at Mary Queen of Peace Church.
There were probably more laughs and fond remembrances at the hourlong service than tears and mourning. After all, Hogan would have wanted it that way.
“Shawn never stopped — he always kept going, living life with no regrets,” college friend Nick Mazzenga said.
Hogan, stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, was killed Oct. 17 when the all-terrain vehicle he was riding overturned during a training exercise. He was a 2002 graduate of Salem High School and valedictorian of his graduating class at Virginia Military Institute.
Hogan received military honors and about 50 of his comrades were in the audience, as was Gov. John Lynch.
Sixteen members of the Patriot Guard Riders stood outside the church, holding flags. Green Berets stood at the door as the crowd filed into the church, where Hogan’s flag-draped coffin sat up front.
The Rev. Thomas Frink opened the service. Hogan’s accomplishments and love for life were described by Master Sgt. Jonathan Ramer.
“Shawn was known for his passion for adventure, his humility and for spending his time laughing with friends,” Ramer said. “Through his contagious personality, never-ending smile and youthful joy for life, he could make anyone feel as though they were his best friend in only a matter of minutes.”
Mazzenga was one of four friends who paid tribute to Hogan, recalling his energy, intelligence and independent spirit. But they especially remembered his love for adventure, describing boyhood stunts and daring deeds as an adult.
He definitely made his presence known, whether it was his taste for wearing unusual hats and oversized sunglasses, or what his friends called his loud, goofy laugh and wacky sense of humor.
Mike Gorbecker, who had known Hogan since seventh grade, said he stood out from others even at a young age.
“You could definitely tell he was a special person” Gorbecker said. “He was the only kid I knew who had a disco ball and a waterbed in his room. For a middleschooler, it made him a rock star.”
Gorbecker and other friends spoke of Hogan’s endless energy and love for running, rock climbing, hiking and skiing. He captained his high school and college cross-country teams.
“When you were with Shawn, it was always easy to feel invincible,” Gorbecker said.
That could be good — and bad. Hogan’s passion for adventure often led his friends down some dangerous paths, especially while skiing.
Gorbecker told of how one time, his friend’s reckless behavior inadvertently sent them crashing down a slippery slope.
“We went barreling right into a snowboard lesson,” he said.
But Gorbecker became concerned when he saw Hogan tumble into the forest.
“I was worried about him until you could hear his goofy laughter 100 feet away in the woods,” he said.
Others who spoke included childhood friend Quy Pham and soldier Andrew Ammer. Pham spoke of Hogan’s “goofy, big smile,” and told of his friend’s idea to place a makeshift bike ramp against a trampoline.
After riding up the ramp, they were to complete a flip in midair and land on the trampoline, Pham said. Instead, they both landed in a heap.
“He was ever so hungry for a challenge,” Pham said. “He always pushed himself and everyone around him to do better. “
Ammer recalled Hogan’s sense of humor. He told of how the rambunctious soldiers, looking for some action, crashed a children’s skating party.
While the solemn service had some uplifting moments — drawing some laughter, there were few dry eyes in the church at the end as “Taps” were sounded and flags were presented to family members, including Hogan’s fiancee, Karree Ann Emmons.
Hogan is also survived by his parents, Richard and Jean Hogan of Salem, and a sister, Nicole Hogan, also of Salem. Other survivors include his grandmother, Dorothy Joly, and Emmons’ daughter, Kaylynn Marie, among several aunts, uncles and cousins.
Hogan, who served in Iraq and was a detachment commander with the 5th Special Forces Group, received numerous awards in the military, including the Bronze Star Medal.
But the many medals and other commendations are just a mere reminder of the legacy Hogan left behind.
“I don’t think any of us could have anticipated what happened to Shawn,” Grobecker said. “With Shawn gone, the world has become a little less adventurous.”