NEWS

Franklin Green Beret killed in Iraq

Michael Morton

A former Panther hockey player who joined the Green Berets has been killed while serving in Iraq, just two months before he was due home.

News of 29-year-old Army Staff Sgt. Robert Pirelli's death reached his family late Wednesday, though details have not yet been released, said James Ginley of the Ginley Funeral Home in Franklin.

Friends and relatives gathered yesterday at the family's Jordan Road home but declined to comment, as did several neighbors.

Ginley said the family is overwhelmed. "It's such a shock," he said.

While Army representatives visited the family's home Wednesday night and yesterday, Department of Defense policy dictates that information not be immediately released to the public, said Walter Sokalski, the deputy of public affairs for the Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.

"We try to give the families time to digest this information," he said.

Pirelli is the son of Nancy and Robert Pirelli, a play-by-play announcer of Franklin High School hockey games for local cable television.

The younger Pirelli was also involved with the team, playing right wing for three seasons before graduating in 1996. His teammates voted him the Most Improved Player his junior year and the Panthers' Unsung Hero his senior year, according to then-assistant coach Bruce Bertoni.

"He was such a great kid," said Bertoni, adding that he was in tears when he got the news.

Pirelli, who went on to graduate with a criminal justice degree from Northeastern University, was one of two senior hockey players to be awarded a $500 scholarship by the Franklin High School Hockey Booster Club. The other was Matthew Wheeler.

"He was a great teammate," Wheeler said, describing Pirelli as hard-working and unselfish. "He never gave up."

While Pirelli's family has begun making funeral arrangements, no details have been worked out, Ginley said. He said he didn't expect a service to take place until sometime next week, since the family doesn't know yet when Pirelli's body will be returned to the country.

"There's no real good answers (from the Army)," Ginley said.

Pirelli is the second Franklin soldier killed in Iraq. In 2005, 19-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Shayne Cabino was killed by a roadside bomb.

Veterans Agent Bob Fahey said town flags will be lowered to half-staff in Pirelli's honor and that other commemorations will take place.

"There's nothing definitive yet," he said.

Heather McCarron and Michael Biglin contributed to this report.

Michael Morton of The Milford (Mass.) Daily News can be reached at mmorton@cnc.com or 508-634-7582.