By Matt Hersh
Staff WriterAs she sat on the hood of her car outside of Salem High School holding the uniform of her brother Nicholas, who was killed in Iraq on Friday, Oct. 6, Kimberly Arvanitis couldn’t help but smile.
“He was this forgiving kid,” she said. “He had a heart of gold.”
Cpl. Nicholas Arvanitis, 22, of the Army’s 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, was killed by small arms gunfire while on a mission near Bayji, a city between Baghdad and Mosul in Northern Iraq. Further details of his death are classified to protect other soldiers, his sister said.
Arvanitis was a squadron leader and had been stationed in Iraq since August.
Kimberly, 24, who was formerly in the Air Force and had been stationed in Iraq, met with Salem High School band director Marty Claussen and social studies teacher Ben Adams on Friday, Oct. 6, to talk about Nicholas and remember him.
Arvanitis grew up in Salem, graduating from Salem High School in 2003. He was a prominent member of the school’s championship wrestling team as well as an accomplished guitarist in the jazz band.
In 2001 Claussen, asked Arvanitis to learn the sousaphone to play at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif. Though he had never played it before, Arvanitis picked up the sousaphone quickly and performed in front of millions of viewers across the country.
Aside from his musical accomplishments, Claussen said he remembers Arvanitis mostly because of the kind of person he was.
“He was always smiling,” Claussen said. “He got along with everyone.”
Likewise, Adams said he remembers Arvanitis in his 12thgrade social studies class being quiet and friendly.
Kimberly Arvanitis said she has a hard time listing all of the qualities she admired in her brother. He was her hero, she said.
Arvanitis joined the Army before he turned 18, having his mother sign the necessary forms. His grandfathers had both served in the Navy, one in World War II. Family members said he was eager to fight for his country.
“When 9/11 happened, he was livid,” said his grandmother, Rita Dill, who helped raise him with her husband Leonard Dill. “He came home one day and said he was going to be joining the 82nd Airborne.”
Dill said Arvanitis joined the Army for the right reasons – he wanted to protect his country and his family.
Kimberly and her brother’s former teachers described him as focused on his friends as well. He returned to Salem for the funeral of Robert L. Moscillo, a 21-year-old Marine from Salem who was killed in May.
After he heard the news of Moscillo’s death, he called home immediately to make sure he was available to help his friends cope.
“He was such a kind young man,” Dill said. “He always thought of his family and other people.”
Arvanitis, who was looked up to by other Army members according to his sister, recently received orders to become a recruiter – a job Claussen said he would have been perfect for.
However, he was determined to fight despite urgings from his sister to stay out of Iraq.
“I told him not to go, that you didn’t want to be there,” she said. “But he said he had to go and fight.”
Military officials notified Kimberly Arvanitis about her brother’s death on Friday when they came to her home.
“I was thinking, ‘Let it be an injury’,” she said. “I just dropped to the ground and lost it – I was in disbelief.”
His sister said that e-mails have been flooding in from soldiers Arvanitis had served with and from Salem friends, telling stories about him and praising him.
A memorial service was held for Arvanitis in Kuwait where about 750 people attended. Normally about 200 attend, his sister said.
Services are still being arranged, but Kimberly Arvanitis said they should occur within the next week.
Salem High School had a moment of silence during their homecoming game last week to honor Arvanitis, Claussen said. On Veterans Day, the Veterans of Foreign Wars will be dedicating their ceremony to Arvanitis, his sister said.
Also, a plaque will be placed on Old Rockingham Road, where Arvanitis grew up. Arvanitis is also survived by his mother, Maureen Arvanitis, of Manchester.
“I want everyone to know who he was,” Kimberly Arvanitis said. “He is a hero and should be recognized for what he’s done.”