Memory of Army Spc. Brian K. Arsenault lives on through shark named in his honor
By SCOTT J. CROTEAU | MassLive.com, Springfield, Mass. (Tribune News Service) | Published: June 21, 2017
Army Spc. Brian Arsenault, a paratrooper from Northborough, Mass., dreamed of swimming with sharks when he finished serving his country.
The 28-year-old never got that chance. He was killed by enemy fire in Ghazni, Afghanistan, in September 2014. But the soldier's memory continues to live on through a shark named in his honor.
That white shark, named "SPC. Brian Arsenault," is swimming for him.
Marianne Long, the educational director for the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, taught students at the Marguerite Elementary Peaslee School in Northborough - Arsenault's former school - on Wednesday after Arsenault's mother asked for her to talk to students.
Brian Arsenault's cousin, Elliott Arsenault, contacted the AWSC and told them about his dream and death.
"Their dream, when he got out of the service, was to go swimming with the sharks," Arsenault's mother, Leslie, said. "Brian was all about shark week. That was his life."
The shark, tagged off of Cape Cod on Sept. 4, 2014, was named after the soldier the day he was killed.
On Facebook, Arsenault's military comrades wrote, "This is what Brian would want."
The ability for the students to learn about the shark teaches them not only about the animals but also about the man who served their country, his mother said.
For the past three years, the AWSC has tracked the shark as the organization continues to work to conserve the lives of great white sharks and track their movements along the coastline of Massachusetts.
There are roughly 40 buoys in the waters around Cape Cod, Marblehead and the South Shore catching the signals from sharks equipped with acoustic tags so the AWSC can follow the sharks' movements.
The sharks tend to hit the Cape Cod waters in the beginning of June and stay in the area until October.
"We do know Brian is a shark that arrives later in the summer," Long said. "We've seen him around Chatham and Nauset. He's been up in that outer Cape area."
The shark was 12 feet when he was tagged, but appears bigger now.
"When Brian's cousin reached out and told us the story, how can you not honor a fallen soldier in that way? For someone who made the ultimate sacrifice how can you not do something back for him and his family?" Long said.
The Arsenault family will take a boat ride with the AWSC to see the shark this summer.
Arsenault, a 2004 graduate of Algonquin Regional High School and an avid hockey player, was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
He enlisted in the Army in November 2011, completed the basic airborne course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and arrived at Fort Bragg in 2012. He was assigned to his last unit in November 2013.
Arsenault was awarded the Purple Heart Medal, Army Commendation Medal (one oak-leaf cluster), Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Basic Parachutist Badge.
At the presentation Wednesday, Long discussed the importance of preserving the lives of great white sharks and the role the sharks have in controlling the grey seal population, a protected species.
A pilot radios a boat to help locate the shark and tag it with two different types of tracking devices. The devices either use the buoys or a satellite to follow movements, Long said.
The sharks are given different names like Brady, who is named after New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, or Marianne, who is named after Long. The educational director also happens to have a shark tattoo on her arm.
Long discussed the role people can have with keeping marine animals safe. Trash dumped into drains or found on the ground reaches the ocean and can harm sea life, she said.
Long asked the second- and third-grade students to help by picking up and throwing out trash found on the ground.
"To have Brian live on in this way is incredible," Long said. "To be able come here and provide this kids with this story and explain it to them so they understand and know this person who went to the same school they did is amazing."
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