DUNEDIN, Fla. (WFLA) — Retired Chief Petty Officer Robert Mirrione said he was stationed in Bangor, Washington when he found out the news.
“My heart just kind of stopped when I got the phone call,” Robert recalled.
Retired U.S. Army parachuter rigger Joe Mirrione said he was still waking up in Dunedin when he got the call.
“‘Just come to mom’s house,'” Joe remembers his other brother saying. “And I could hear it in his voice, he was real shaken up. I was like, ‘Is everything ok?’ And he’s like, ‘Just come to mom’s house.'”
Joe said he doesn’t remember putting on clothes and jumping in his car.
“As I got out of the car, I saw, you know, officers in uniform, military officers,” Joe said. “I kind of stopped in the driveway, like, if I don’t go in, it’s not happening.”
But neither brother could stop what had already happened — their youngest brother, U.S. Army Specialist Zachary Shannon was killed in Afghanistan in a helicopter crash at 21 years old.
A Dunedin native, Shannon enlisted in the Army in August 2010. He volunteered for deployment to Afghanistan.
“It was surreal,” Robert said. “It was very hard to deal with. It seemed fake.”
That was 2013.
On Monday, community members memorialized the service and sacrifice of the fallen soldier, a decade after his death.
“The amount of support I have seen this whole community give to my family and specifically my mom has just been unreal,” Robert gushed. “I’m really proud to be from Dunedin, Florida.”
Moving forward, a portion of Alternate US Highway 19/Bayshore Boulevard will bear the name “SPC Zachary L. Shannon Memorial Highway.”
“That road, that sign is what’s named after him and what will be here forever,” Joe said. “You should be proud every time you drive by it.”
Shannon’s mother, Kimberly Allison, will drive by one of the signs nearly every day — it’s right outside her neighborhood.
“You’re never truly gone until you’re forgotten,” Kimberly said. “So we try to keep the memory alive, and we just talk about him like he’s still here.”
She said she appreciated the turnout to the dedication.
“It just means that Zach is not forgotten,” Kimberly explained. “They appreciate what he did. He was a Dunedin boy through and through.”
In 2023, state lawmakers passed a bill designating a 2-mile stretch of the road from Orange Street to Michigan Boulevard to be renamed in Shannon’s honor.
After the ceremony, a string of cars flashing their hazards followed Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies down the newly-dedicated highway to the local VFW post that’s also named after Shannon.