U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Christopher D. Bordoni, a 2008 graduate of Ithaca High School, was just two weeks away from returning home from his second tour of duty in Afghanistan when he sustained fatal injuries from a suicide bomber on a motorcycle.
Throughout the week, 21-year-old Bordoni was remembered and honored by family, friends and community members as a young man who embodied the values of the Marine Corps.
“We saw him grow up his whole life,” said Peter Massicci, a close friend of Bordoni’s father. “He was a very athletic kid that excelled at things; when he put his mind to something, he did it, and he did it full bore. It’s just the kind of kid he was.”
According to Massicci’s wife, Nancy, until they received news of his injury, Bordoni’s family had been eagerly making plans for his return.
Another family friend, Andrew Stern, spoke to Bordoni’s dedication to the Corps. Bordoni was a member of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines.
“I talked to [Chris] after his first tour,” Stern said. “He was a true Marine: the pride, the professionalism, the commitment to the duty of the Corps. He had every attribute the Corps has. He walked it, he talked it, he lived it.”
Friends said that Bordoni had long dreamed of becoming a Marine. Ithaca assistant fire chief Guy J. Van Benschoten recalled a conversation in which he asked Bordoni’s father about his son’s plans for after high school.
“Tim told me ‘he wants to be a Marine,’ not ‘join the service’ or ‘join the military,’” Van Benschoten said. “He wanted to be a Marine and to be the best possible Marine.”
The news of Bordoni’s death deeply affected Ithaca and the surrounding communities. There was an outpouring of support, with a motorcade returning Bordoni’s body to his family this Tuesday.
Community members commented on the unprecedented size and scope of this week’s memorial events.
“It was the biggest thing I’ve ever seen come out of this community,” said Ithaca resident Mike Babbitt. “It was incredible. Everyone just came out in full force.”
On Tuesday, a train of Bordoni’s family, law enforcement officers, firefighters, officials from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and members of the Patriot Guard –– as well as other community members that joined along the way –– accompanied Bordoni’s body from the Syracuse Airport to his Ithaca home, according to Julie Holcomb, Ithaca city clerk.
Van Benschoten, who participated in the motorcade, admitted it was difficult for him and the other firemen to keep their composure in the face of such a strong showing by the community.
“We saw on Route 81, in the northbound lane, a man who could barely walk,” Van Benschoten said. “He stopped his car and stood at attention. It was incredibly moving.”
According to The Ithaca Journal, the crowd that had gathered outside of Bangs Funeral Home fell silent upon the motorcade’s arrival.
On Wednesday, community members and friends gathered to express their condolences to the Bordoni family at Immaculate Conception Church on North Geneva Street.
“I don’t know if you noticed,” said Ithaca resident Vinny Giordano, “but most people at funerals, they walk in and walk out. These people walk in and they stay.”
By that afternoon, the line waiting to enter the church stretched far down the street, as community members poured in.
“I think you’re going to see tonight that crowd will just get bigger and bigger to come and pay their respects,” said Ithaca resident Charles Heath. “The ultimate thing is to give your life, and we’re very proud of him and his family.”
Outside the church, members of the Patriot Guard stood at attention holding American flags.
“Their job is to stay with the family and protect the family for all military funerals,” Holcomb said.
Flowers adorned the sanctuary located near the entrance of the church. To the left of the flag-draped casket was a portrait of Bordoni; behind it, the U.S. Marine Corps flag and the U.S. flag were displayed. Two Marines stood guard on either side of the casket at all times.
As mourners returned to Immaculate Conception Church on Thursday morning for Bordoni’s funeral, the line to enter again wrapped around the block. As about 60 members of Bordoni’s company entered the church, the crowd clapped as they passed by.
The church was filled to capacity, with several people standing along the walls when seats were no longer available.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, including mine,” said Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09.
Family and friends then proceeded to a private ceremony at Calvary Cemetery. A 21-gun salute was fired and the flag, meticulously folded 12 times, was presented to Bordoni’s widow Jessica, with the stars of the flag pointing toward the sky.
Performing these traditions throughout the funeral services was an honor for the Marines in Bordoni’s company, according to Staff Sergeant Jonathon Parsons.
“To us, every Marine is a brother,” Parsons said. “[Bordoni] went to war with us, and we are going to bring him [home].”