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Marine Lt. Col. Thomas Budrejko was a serious man with a serious job, his childhood friend
from Montville said Saturday at his funeral.

But whenever Timothy Whelan thinks of his friend, he said, he always pictures him smiling.

A rising star in the Marine Corps, Budrejko was one of seven Marines killed when two Marine
Corps helicopters collided Feb. 22 over the Arizona desert. It was one of the Marine Corps'
deadliest aviation training accidents in years.

Friends and family who gathered for the funeral Saturday at St. Mary's Church described
Budrejko as a loving parent, a talented pilot and a great patriot, whose sense of humor drew
others to him. Budrejko, who grew up in Oakdale, went to St. Mary's Church when he visited
his relatives in Newington.

Whelan said in the eulogy that it was clear from early on that Budrejko was a "great
mind," but he never acted like he was superior. He could befriend anyone, Whelan said.

Budrejko wrestled and played football at Montville High, graduating in 1992. He studied
aerospace engineering at the U.S. Naval Academy and was commissioned a second
lieutenant in the Marine Corps in May 1996. He was designated a naval aviator and an AH-1W
pilot in 1999.

Lt. Col. Brian Bruggeman and Budrejko met when they were both new pilots. Budrejko
became one of the best Cobra pilots and instructors in the service, Bruggeman said in the

Budrejko was the executive officer of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 at Marine
Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton. He was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan with his unit
in April. It would have been Budrejko's second deployment to the war-torn country. He
deployed multiple times during his career, including three tours in Iraq.

He was slated to take command of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303.

Budrejko made his students better pilots and better people, Bruggeman said, and his legacy
will live on in the crews stationed around the world that learned from him.

Gail Budrejko, his aunt, read from the Book of Wisdom. "The just man, though he die
early, shall be at rest, she said. Budrejko, 37, lived in Temecula, Calif., with his wife, Diana,
and their 2-year-old son, Andrew.

The Rev. Joseph F. Keough, pastor at St. Mary's, officiated. Archbishop of Hartford Henry J.
Mansell offered his sympathies to the family at the close of the Mass. The hymn "On Eagle's
Wings" played during the recessional.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Major Gen. Thaddeus J.
Martin, commander of the Connecticut National Guard, were among the dignitaries who

Budrejko's casket was draped in a white cloth to represent the white garment received at
Baptism. At the end of the Mass, several Marines unfolded a U.S. flag in the entrance of the
church and laid it over the casket.

Diana Budrejko stood behind the casket, holding Andrew. Nearby, parents Donald and Mary
Budrejko comforted each other.

The funeral procession traveled to Sacred Heart Cemetery in New Britain, where Budrejko
was buried with full military honors near his relatives who fought during World War II.

;He was a great man, a wonderful father and a patriot, Joe Duffy, Andrew's godfather, said
after the Mass. and we will miss him dearly.
Lt. Col Thomas A. Budrejko
United States Marine Corps
DoD 22 February 2012
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The 37-year-old Montville native was among seven people killed in the Feb. 22 accident during a
training exercise in a remote section of the Yuma Training Range Complex. Lt. Col. Thomas
Budrejko was killed when two military helicopters collided in Arizona last month.