Died In Iraq
By MELISSA PLATA
Name: Marlon Bustamante
Date of Death: Feb. 1, 2006
Spec. Marlon Bustamante’s unit deployed to Iraq more than a
month before Bustamante joined them so that he could see his daughter,
Annalyse, come into the world. He left his wife and three children
behind when the newborn was just two weeks old.
Annalyse turned four months old, the 25-year-old soldier aspiring
to become a NYPD officer was killed in Baghdad. An improvised explosive
device detonated near his Humvee in February 2006.
Bustamante has a brother, Omar Ciro, who is with the 82nd Airborne
and was granted leave to make the unfortunate journey home to be with
his grieving family in Corona. Ciro and the oldest of the brothers,
Carlos, agreed that their brother was a hero.
Carlos doesn’t support the war in Iraq and when asked if the
ultimate price is too steep he said, “Absolutely. This war’s
never gonna end. Just more Americans are gonna get killed. It’s
lives being lost. I lost my brother. My mother lost her son.”
“He never talked down about the war,” Carlos said of his
brother. “‘We’re making a difference,’”
he would say.
Bustamante’s long time friend Lee Warshawasky, from their days
at Flushing High School, said “everything [Marlon did] was always
to help somebody else.”
Bustamante was born in Colombia and came to the United States when
he was just a year old. Immediately after graduating from high school
the optimistic teenager signed up with the Army, promptly becoming
a decorated soldier. His awards include the Army Service Medal, the
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism
Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal, according to
his unit in Kentucky.
“He was a son of Queens who wanted a career in law enforcement,
but made the supreme sacrifice in service to his country in Baghdad,”
Borough President Helen Marshal said.
On a memorial Web site, Spec. Steve Bovee of Ft. Campbell, Ky., wrote
“Hey man, it’s been over a year now since that day, but
not a day goes by where I don’t think about you. We really miss
you and wish your family all the best. It was a pleasure serving with
you. You always made me laugh even on the worst days. Take care up
there and watch over your family and loved ones. First Strike.”
Bustamante was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, a wish that
he had mentioned to his brothers prior to his second tour.
Boro’s First To Die Killed In Crash
By LIZ SKALKA
Name: Robert Marcus Rodriguez
Date of Death: March 25, 2003
Though he was the first soldier from New York City to die in Iraq,
Cpl. Robert Marcus Rodriguez, 21, is not forgotten by those who knew
the Maspeth home of Hyda Hernandez-Lopez, Rodriguez’s sister,
a shrine was erected in the corner of her dining room with pictures,
flowers and rosary beads to honor the fallen marine, who died March
25, 2003, after his tank flipped over into the Euphrates River trying
to dodge heavy artillery.
Rodriguez, one of five children, was close to his family. At his funeral
service, his mother, Amary Ilis Rodriguez, was so distraught she had
to be revived with smelling salts. His sister told the Queens Tribune
in 2005 that around the time of the war’s anniversary, March
19, she thinks about Rodriguez a lot, as well as on his birthday,
“I get sad,” she said. “My mind wanders and I wonder
what could have happened.”
Rodriguez was one of four killed in the accident. He was a member
of the Marine’s First Tank Battalion. Though Rodriguez’s
tank plunged off the bridge on the 25th, the search for the crew was
delayed several days due to storms and gusting winds. Days later,
Rodriguez and his crew were found. He is buried at Long Island National
Rodriguez left behind his sister as well as 17 nieces and nephews.
Though Lopez’s sister, Glenda, was in the Navy she had never
been deployed to any wars. Rodriguez’s death came as a shock.
“It never entered our minds that he’d get hurt,”
Lopez said. “We thought he’d go to war and come right
Entering the Marines at age 17, Rodriguez was deployed to Kuwait in
Rodriguez had two tattoos on his arms symbolizing his dedication to
his country. One was of the flag being raised at Iwo Jima in World
War II and the other was of three firefighters, including one from
Queens, raising the flag at Ground Zero.
He also had his mother’s name tattooed above his heart with
Following his death, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-Ridgewood)
announced a street renaming in Maspeth to honor Rodriguez –
Corporal Robert Marcus Rodriguez Way.
“The dedication of this street in his name – and in his
honor – is just one small tribute we make to a fallen hero,”
Velázquez said. “Corporal Robert Marcus Rodriguez Way
will remind us each and every day of his honorable life and how his
memory will live on in our hearts.”
The street in his honor is just a further reminder of what Rodriguez’s
family already knows — that he is a hero.
Even now, Lopez still ponders over what could have been, like if Rodriguez
were still around to help his nieces and nephews with their homework,
as he used to do. “We go through all the what-ifs,” Lopez
Grenade Kills Soldier Guarding Hospital
By BRAD GROZNIK
Name: Wilfredo Perez Jr.
Date of Death: July 26, 2003
Soon after the Perez family lost their son, two girls across the street
set up a lemonade stand.
In the hot summer sun, their cups of sweet and sour refreshment were
sold to the kids playing and the grownups mowing.
the girls called it quits they brought their jar of money over to
the Perez house and told Wilfredo Perez Sr. to donate it in his son’s
Spec. Wilfredo Perez Jr. was killed July 26, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq
after a grenade was thrown out a window of an Iraqi civilian hospital
he was guarding. Two other soldiers – Sgt. Daniel K. Methvin,
of Belton, Texas, and Spec. Jonathan P. Barnes, of Anderson, Mo. –
also died in the attack.
The girls were the first to donate to the Spec. Wilfredo Perez Jr.
Scholarship Fund his father set up to award $5,000 to a student at
the high school Wilfredo Jr. attended.
Wilfredo Sr. said he raised almost $100,000 by sponsoring golf tournaments
and dinners. This year the scholarship was granted nonprofit status,
allowing bigger donations to be contributed.
He has expanded the scholarship to be offered at the neighboring high
school. He sponsored a platoon serving overseas and offset shipping
costs of gift boxes for the troops.
Ideally, Wilfredo Sr. said he hopes to erect a memorial for the veterans
of the War on Terror in his town of Norwalk, Conn.
However, the death of his son has been difficult.
“We’ve learned to cope with it and the holidays are tough,”
he said. “Wednesday [Dec. 19] was his birthday.”
Wilfredo Sr. said his son’s room is still the same as when he
left it four years ago.
Born in Brooklyn, Wilfredo Jr., 24, lived half of his life in Queens.
His father said he still called it home even when he moved to Connecticut
at age 13.
At 17, Wilfredo Jr. joined the Junior ROTC at Norwalk High School
and after Sept. 11, at age 23, he enlisted.
His father said he was proud to wear his uniform and serve his country.
According the Wilfredo’s scholarship Web site, his last letter
from Iraq arrived the day after the family learned that he lost his
life. “In that letter, written crouched in a Humvee, Jr. told
his stepbrother Joseph, 15, that he needed to ‘finish school’
to be able to take care of himself and ‘be the man.’”
Wilfredo Jr. was the second Queens son to have died in the war after
fighting began May 1, 2003. He was first to be killed from Connecticut.
On a popular memorial Web site, his friend, Brandon Reinhardt, of
Fort Benning, Ga., wrote he was with Wilfredo when he died and would
never forget him.
“I have a son due in August on the 20th and my son will know
who John, Dan, and Will are,” he wrote. “You are still
in my thoughts guys.”
Christy Allington of Austin, Texas, went to high school with Wilfredo
Jr. and wrote he was missed.
“He always had this aura about him,” she wrote. “No
matter what happened you couldn’t help but laugh and be happy
when you were with him.”
Wilfredo Sr. has reached out to other families who lost sons in the
war and currently gets together with anther father once a month over
some beer and pizza. He is also helping the father set up a scholarship
fund in memory of his son.
Death Passed Him By Only To Return
By JULIET WERNER
Name: Roger G. Ling
Date of Death: Feb. 19, 2004
The first time insurgents fired at Spec. Roger Ling of Douglaston
not only did he survive, he helped save a superior officer.
Lieutenant who benefited from Ling’s care barely remembers the
attack, which took place in Khalidiyah.
“Ling was in the back seat,” Lt. Matt Homa, 23, told the
United States Department of Defense. “We were going along normally
and [the bomb] destroyed my door. It almost killed me. From what I’ve
been told, [Roger] helped keep me awake until my medic arrived.”
Ling stayed by Homa’s side, tending his chest wound, until medics
arrived. Homa is now recuperating in Pennsylvania; Ling suffered a
After graduating from Benjamin Cardozo High School, Ling enrolled
in Basic Training. He was then assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion,
34th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, Fort Riley, Kan. The
New York City teen didn’t have a license to drive, but quickly
learned to operate a vehicle when he was told he’d be chauffeuring
officers around Iraq in Humvees.
On Feb. 19, 2004, approximately four months after the first attack,
in nearly the same spot, Ling’s unit was ambushed again. Ling,
then 20, sustained injuries from arms fire and an improvised explosive
device, which eventually proved fatal. His death was the 544th in
Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Lin’s father, Wai, a Chinese immigrant, also served in the U.S.
Army and fought in the Vietnam War. He was not at home in Douglaston
when Army officials arrived bearing the tragic news. The officials
went next to Ling’s aunt’s New Jersey home who told Ling’s
sister Leona of the loss.
Although many families choose to bury their loved ones close to home,
the Lings decided to inter Roger at Arlington National Cemetery.
“We knew that Arlington Cemetery was the best of the best and
he would get all the respect and honor that he deserved,” Leona
Ling told the Daily News.
Ling’s fellow soldiers remember him fondly on the Fallen Heroes
“I am proud to serve with Ling and I dearly miss him. He will
never leave my thoughts. He was always so cheerful and a dedicated
soldier,” Anuar Valdez of San Antonio, Tex. wrote.
Sgt. Tamika (Shung) Carroll recruited Ling along with his best friend,
Max Misch, from Cardozo.
“These guys were so hyped into joining the Army,” Carroll
wrote on Fallen Heroes, adding that Ling came into the Army with a
certain amount of direction.
“I couldn’t figure out why this guy wanted to join the
Army to be a tanker,” Carroll wrote. “With his test scores
I encouraged him to be a linguist or military intelligence. But he
knew what he wanted to do.”
Carroll said he is no longer a recruiter.
“I have his picture that he took in the Recruiting station by
my desk and every so often I look at it and get choked up,”
Carroll said. “This past Memorial Day I was in a parade at West
Point to honor our fallen heroes and the tears I shed were for Roger.”
Prevete Joined ArmyOver Sense Of Duty
By MELISSA PLATA
Name: James Prevete
Date of Death: Oct. 10, 2004
James Prevete, 22, had been a soldier for less than a year after signing
up for duty in August 2003, just months after the president declared
an end to major combat missions in Iraq.
had only been in Iraq for a month and a half before meeting his devastating
“His vehicle encountered whiteout conditions and the driver
apparently lost control,” said a Defense Department statement;
“whiteout” is military jargon for a sandstorm. The driver
was blinded by the elements and lost control of the military vehicle
causing the fatal accident. Prevete was killed in the middle of the
Sunni Triangle, west of Baghdad, halfway between Fallujah and Ramadi,
two of the most dangerous areas saturated with insurgents.
When Prevete’s father spotted a soldier in fatigues walking
up his driveway at his home in Whitestone he optimistically assumed
that his son was back from the war, shouting “Jim is home! Jim
is home!” a neighbor said.
But the excitement quickly turned into the heart-breaking news that
Prevete was gone just eight months after leaving Queens to join the
“It was a dream of his for a long time,” said one of his
friends and Marine, David Pelaez, 20. “He knew what he was doing.
You don’t join the military without some awareness of what’s
going on over there. He had a sense of duty.”
As the family grieved in private, neighbors remembered the fallen
soldier as an “athletic, devout and gregarious son who played
basketball in the street for hours at a time.”
“It’s very sad,” said Pat Trougakos, who lives across
the street. “It’s just so hard to believe that this could
Prevete attended the Holy Trinity School and later St. Francis Preparatory
School, where he was a dedicated football player graduating in 2000.
His former football coach was visited by the soldier before he was
“I was very proud to see him walking around to be expressing
his pride in himself by showing all of the students here that he was
in the Army,” said Joseph Licata.
His sister, Laura Prevete, who was a senior at the high school in
Fresh Meadows and bravely attended classes the day after the news
of her brother’s sudden death was delivered, was comforted by
“He said to me that he’s going to go because he doesn’t
believe that it’s fair that there’s people dying for him
to live free, and he wants to fight for the people,” said his
fiancée, Diana Sartori.
Prevete briefly attended Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, as
well as Queens College, but the strong sense of order and structure
drew him to the Army, said his priest Rev. Fraiser.
“I woke up and I heard my mom screaming and my dad’s sick
so I thought something had happened to him, but I walked into the
living room and I saw two soldiers standing there and I just don’t
know what to think,” said his sister. “I still don’t
believe it really happened.”
Prevete was buried in Queens.
New U.S. Immigrant Died For America
By BRAD GROZNIK
Name: Wai Lwin
Date of Death: March 2, 2005
While the word immigrant continues to gain a bad reputation, it is
people like Spec. Wai Phyo Lwin who still bring reverence to the term.
Burmese immigrant had only lived in the United States for a short
while before joining the Armed Forces.
“I can understand. He loved his job,” said his mother
Thein Zaw. “My son always wanted to be a soldier.”
Lwin was a Burma-born national guardsman from Douglaston. He was killed
March 2, 2005 in Baghdad when a roadside bomb exploded underneath
Lwin, 27, died in the Humvee along side his good friend Azhar Ali,
27, of Flushing.
Lwin and Ali became fast friends during boot camp and later ended
up in the same unit, the National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 69th
Infantry Regiment, based in Manhattan.
On a popular memorial Web site Spec. Guerrero called Lwin and Ali
some of the nicest people he ever met.
“I patrolled with them both for my first few months before I
moved on to the mortar platoon,” He wrote. “I truly will
miss Lwin for the rest of my life and above all I will forever regret
never seeing him smile or sing again. But most of all I think I’ll
miss giving him and Ali grief over how much they both smoked.”
PFC William Riegger of Islip bunked with Lwin when they went through
basic training at Fort Benning and said they talked often.
“I feel honored to have known him and to have called him ‘friend,’”
he wrote. “We always talked of Burma and we joked about when
all of us guys were going with him on vacation. I always remember
him with a smile on his face and something funny to say.”
Myo Htut Myaing of Fort Lee, N.J. said he admired Lwin’s courage
“Before he left for Baghdad, he was very enthusiastic and excited
to be serving in the military,” he wrote. “I was amazed
by his bravery to go willingly to the front-line where most feared
Some friends just left messages that could only be understood by Lwin.
“I’ll never forget what you said to me at the Q30 bus
stop,” Hpyo Aung, of Douglaston, said. “Though I have
not bettered myself much since then...I will one day.”
Lwin also inspired other Burmese immigrants to write on his message
“I felt such deep sorrow and sense of pride when I chanced upon
the casualties page on CNN,” wrote fellow Burmese Le Mon Khaing
Rice, of Yokosuka, Japan. “I am married to a military man myself
and I can just only imagine the loss by the family.”
Su Mon Win of Maryland also thanked Lwin for his sacrifice.
“Thank you Spec. Wai P. Lwin for your exceptional bravery, dedication
to your country and making Burmese people proud,” she wrote.
A year after his death family and friends commented.
“One year has passed, but we all remember your bravery and courage
that you have done…may rest in peace Burmese Warrior,”
Victor Lin of the United Kingdom said.
His cousin also remembered him after a year.
“It’s been a year since you left us Wai Phyo, but we’ll
never forget you. I just kept picturing you as a little boy playing
with us,” Madi Han of Kingsville, Ont. said “You became
a courageous and brave man.
Red Tape Delayed Ali’s Family Funeral
By BRIAN M. RAFFERTY
Name: Azhar Ali
Date of Death: March 2, 2005
Azhar Ali went into the Army not knowing where he would end up or
with whom he would serve, but he found a friend while in boot camp
– fellow Army soldier Wai Lwin, who was also from Queens and
who met his fate along with Ali when a roadside bomb destroyed the
Humvee the two were in.
27-year-old from Flushing came to this country from Pakistan, and
when he died his family was dealing with the emotional struggle of
him being denied a proper Muslim burial, which should have been within
24 hours of his death. Instead, he was not buried until two weeks
Death, it seemed, was surrounding Ali’s decision to be in the
place he was when killed. His friend Lwin had recently received news
of his grandmother’s death, and when offered a chance to take
leave to attend the funeral he stuck by his unit and decided to fight
on. That decision put him in the driver’s seat in the Humvee
that day and cost him and Ali their lives.
Ali’s parents were held up in Pakistan by red tape that barred
them from entering the country for his delayed funeral. To expedite
matters, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and City Councilman John
Liu (D-Flushing) were in contact with officials in Karachi, at the
U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and at the Pakistani Embassy in New York.
Liu said at the time, “I only hope that we can honor this young
soldier by helping his family in their time of grief.”
Ali’s four brothers who were already in the country visited
the Lwin family in their Douglaston home to console one another.
“This is the only thing that can bring the whole family together,”
said Ali’s cousin, Sunny Sharif. Ali’s eight brothers
and sisters, parents and extended family were finally reunited to
attend services at the Islamic Burial Funeral Home in Woodhaven.
“Now we can put Azhar Ali’s soul to rest in peace,”
Ali was buried at the Washington Memorial Park in Coram, but the impact
his life had on others lives on.
“We are deeply saddened by your loss,” former Pakistan
neighbors Siraj and Arusa, who now live in Newark, N.J., wrote on
Fallenheroesmemorial.com “We knew Azhar from Pakistan, we were
neighbors. As a little boy, he was extremely sweet and caring. The
world has lost a great human being, and may Allah bring peace upon
“Salaam u alekum to my lovely cousin Azhar Ali,” wrote
Asif Naeem of Karachi. “I am proud of you and you will live
forever in our hearts we never forget you. God bless you and good
wishes for you that you are in beautiful paradise.”
A fellow soldier from Ali’s battalion had a more practical message
for the slain Pakistani immigrant.
“Ali, when I first got to Taji and joined your crew it was always
a comfort to know that you had us all covered on the .50 cal,”
wrote Spec. Guerrero of the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry. “You’ll
always be missed my friend; until we meet again.”
Iraq Marine Base Named For Postal
By JULIET WERNER
Name: Michael Postal
Home: Glen Oaks
Date of Death: May 7, 2005
Before Michael Postal even stepped foot on the battlefield, he had
successfully overcome another enemy: his weight.
teenage boys looking to slim down are motivated by the prospect of
a better shot at popularity. Postal, however, a Glen Oaks resident,
took up a regimen of intensive exercise and diet supplements in order
to qualify for the Corps. He lost 140 pounds.
But it wasn’t just body mass standing in his way; Postal’s
family was another obstacle. As a boy, Postal bewildered his relatives
by reading tirelessly about military strategy. Later, he interned
at New York City police headquarters. His grandmother, Sandi Postal
of Coral Springs, Fla. was always particularly troubled by his desire
to join the armed services and joked that she would sneak him off
But Postal was resolute and joined the marines following graduating
from Martin Van Buren High School. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion,
8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary
Force, Camp LeJeune, N.C.
When Postal made it home safely from his first tour in Iraq, his family
begged him to remain stateside. Instead, he signed up for another
tour, which sent him to Al Karmah in Anbar province. On May 7, 2005,
five months into his second tour, Postal was killed by a roadside
bomb that exploded while he was running a supply mission. He was 21
A memorial Web site, Fallen Heroes, has several comments posted by
Postal’s colleagues, all of whom shared his unending support
for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“When I was in Iraq for the third time I ran into [Postal] at
the computer center in Camp Fallujah in 2005,” Cpl. Anthony
Certa of North Carolina wrote. “I was like ‘holy cow it’s
Postal,’ and he was like ‘wow it’s Certa.’
So we got to talking and catching up on the few years that have passed.
It was great seeing him and I know I’ll see him again. Take
Another comment, from Lcpl. Daniel Shaw of South Carolina, reveals
that Postal had wanted to stay put on Iraqi soil for as long as possible.
“Postal and I had plans to extend over there, we were going
to swap over to regiment as a PSD,” Shaw wrote. “We never
even thought of the fact one of us could die. One day I just came
off patrol and he wasn’t there anymore. There were many tears
shed, that day by all of us. There are still many tears shed every
time I think of him. He was one of the best men I will ever know.
According to another Web site, corpstories.com, in June 2005 Postal’s
friends in the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment decided to rename
the base “Camp Postal.” The Marines made a sign, which
now proudly hangs over the camp’s main entrance.
“Everyone knew Postal, and this was a fitting way to remember
him here,” said Capt. Brian Jenkins, Company L commander.
Trained For NYPD, He Died In Iraq
By MELISSA PLATA
Name: James McNaughton
Home: Middle Village
Date of Death: Aug. 2, 2005
In August 2005, a young transit cop from District 2 in lower Manhattan
was the first of New York’s Bravest to be gunned down, being
felled by a single bullet at the hands of a sniper in Iraq. James
McNaughton, 27, was guarding prisoners at the time of his death.
graduated from the first Police Academy class after the Sept. 11 terror
attacks and worked the midnight transit shift riding the subways.
McNaughton was extremely patriotic and announced his plans to join
the military soon after graduating high school, which concerned his
step mother, though she continued to support him unconditionally.
“His love of the military was definitely fueled by his love
of the American way of life, and by [the attacks on] Sept. 11,”
said Officer Brian Kenny, the union delegate for Transit District
2. “When he spoke about going over there, someone said, ‘It’s
the most dangerous place in the world right now.’ That didn’t
bother him. He said, ‘That’s where I’m going.’”
“Military duty and police work were probably in his blood,”
McNaughton’s father said outside the family’s Centereach
McNaughton grew up surrounded by police officers: His father, William,
recently retired from the Transit Bureau, and his stepmother, Michele,
is still serving. Keeping with the family tradition he was engaged
to marry Officer Lilliana Paredes, who works in the Ninth Precinct.
McNaughton, who had already served one tour of duty, volunteered to
serve in Iraq late in fall 2004, his colleagues said. His father said
he knew from the moment the police pulled up in front of his home
the devastating news of his son’s death was imminent.
“It’s just such a shock for everybody here,” said
Captain Thomas Ponella. “It’s tough right now, because
it’s part of our family. Jimmy was a good guy, a nice guy, a
dedicated police officer and well liked by everybody. He was protecting
us, our country, and he gave his life for the country.”
In 2005 an issue of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association magazine
features a confident and smiling McNaughton in Iraq wearing a NYPD
cap. He is proudly holding the American flag in a photo with eight
“I am honored to have known you,” said Officer Christina
Merrick. “I remember those drill weekends at the unit when I
was a cadet. You showed me how to use a .9 mil. You were truly a professional
and someone to look up to.”
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said McNaughton “embodied the
motto of the NYPD, fidelis ad mortem, faithful until death.”
“We will miss him and honor him always,” Kelly said.
Humvee Meets IED To End Rios’ Life
By MICHAEL CUSENZA
Name: Hernando Rios
Date of Death: Aug. 8, 2005
On Aug. 8, 2005, Woodside lost one of its own.
Pfc. Hernando Rios was gravely injured when his Humvee was struck
by two improvised explosive devices and received small arms fire in
northwestern Baghdad. He succumbed to his injuries a day later. He
was 29 years old and a husband and father of three young girls.
and Spec. Anthony Kalladeen, 26, of Purchase, N.Y., who was also killed
in the attack, were assigned to the Army National Guard’s 1st
Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, 256th Brigade Combat Team based
out of Manhattan.
They were poised to return home after a year-long tour in Iraq supporting
Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“I remember Kalladeen and Rios; there wasn’t a sound out
of them,” Sgt. Danny Barr, who was sitting in the front passenger
seat and temporarily knocked unconscious by the blast, told the Daily
News’ Nancy Dillon 10 days after the tragedy. “[Spec.
Brian] Lopez was wandering around the vehicle in pain. I know I was
in pain. ... The next thing I know I’m running down the road
trying to load Kalladeen into a vehicle, but the door wouldn’t
Rios lived in an apartment on 49th Street with his mother, wife and
two of his daughters. The southwest corner of Queens Boulevard and
49th Street has since been renamed “Pfc. Hernando Rios Place.”
“Like so many brave citizen-soldiers, Specialist Kalladeen and
Pfc. Rios, bravely answered the call to duty in Iraq, risking their
lives to spread the cause of freedom and to protect us from threats
of terror,” then-Gov. George Pataki said.
Grateful citizens expressed themselves and reached out to the Rios
family via online memorials.
“Thank you Hernando Rios, you will not be forgotten. Your bravery
goes beyond words. I want to express my deepest gratitude for your
sacrifice. To the family and friends, my prayers and deep condolences
in your loss. May God strengthen you from knowing that fellow Americans
and people around the world care about you and grieve with you in
your loss. God bless you all. A very appreciative fellow American,”
Leo Titus of Grayslake, Ill. wrote on Fallenheroesmemorial.com.
Rios’ friend, Edward Rosario, wrote from California, “This
is to my long time friend. I will miss you and will never forget the
good time we had growing up. Love you, dog. Rest in peace. Love, Choco.”
According to a published report, Rios’ sister, Carmen Depompeis,
had begged Rios not to enlist.
“I really didn’t want him to go. I said, ‘You should
stay here, for the girls.’ He said it would be worth it to die
for his country.”
Daughter Asks Why Dad Had To Die
By MICHAEL CUSENZA
Name: Regilio Nelom
Date of Death: Sept. 17, 2005
America wasn’t Staff Sgt. Regilio Nelom’s native land,
but he fought and died for it as if he were born and raised here.
was assigned to the Army’s 249th Quartermaster Company, 1st
Corps Support Command, based out of Fort Bragg, N.C. He died near
Al Asad, Iraq, Sept. 17, 2005, when an improvised explosive device
detonated near the Humvee he was driving during an escort mission.
He was 45 and the 12th soldier from Queens to die in Operation Iraqi
Nelom emigrated from Suriname, South America, in 1987, and lived in
the Bronx and Woodhaven before settling in Killeen, Tex. According
to published reports, Nelom served in the military in Suriname and
had always wanted to enlist in the U.S. Army. He was granted that
opportunity in 1994.
“My husband was not somebody who could work a 9-to-5 job and
be happy,” Nelom’s wife, Cynthia, told the Associated
Press. “Before the Army, he was doing odd jobs, but he was not
very satisfied. I had never seen my husband this happy doing anything
Cynthia painted a picture of Nelom as a restless worker who manned
odd jobs like working in a mail room and delivering newspapers on
Countless fellow soldiers have left messages to Nelom and his family
in his personal guest book on memorial Web sites like legacy.com.
“SSG Nelom, my hero,” Sgt. Toya Carroll wrote. “I
will always remember sharing my sour Skittles with you on a trip back
from the range. It was hot, we were tired, but you kept the mood so
light and happy. I will continue to miss you, even now two years later.
Mrs. Nelom may god continue to bless you and your family.”
“SSG Nelom, You are still living in our hearts and minds. Your
leadership, dedication and genuine care for your fellow soldiers was
a great example for all those you touched and will live on forever.
Thank you for being you, thank you for your sacrifice,” wrote
Sgt. Bermudez of Ft. Bragg, N.C., on fallenheroesmemorial.com.
Nelom left behind two daughters, Megan and Briane. Megan told ABC
News’ “Nightline” in a 2006 report that her father
instructed her prior to his deployment to take care of her mother
and sister should something happen to him. But the unanswerable questions
“I still have lots of things to do,” she said. “I
still have to get married, you know. I still have to graduate from
high school and graduate from college and everything. I want to know
why? Why now? Why him?”
He Hid His Service For Mom’s Sake
By JULIET WERNER
Name: Jose Gomez
Date of Death: April, 28 2005
Like so many who paid the ultimate price in Iraq, Army Sgt. Jose Gomez
escaped death during his first tour. His fiancée, Analaura
Esparza-Gutierrez, was not so lucky.
two met at basic training with the 10th Cavalry, 4th Brigade, 4th
Infantry Division in Fort Hood, Tex., where Gomez was assigned following
graduation from Newtown High School in Elmhurst. The two became engaged
in 2003 while serving in Iraq.
That same year, Gutierrez, a military police officer, was killed when
a roadside bomb exploded in Tikrit on Oct. 1. She was 21 years old.
Gomez finished his tour and returned home. His mother, Maria, well-aware
of her son’s deteriorating mental state, took him on vacation
to Santo Domingo. She looked at her son, clearly heartbroken and traumatized,
and remembered his initial motivation to serve and her steadfast support.
“He wanted to study, and we were poor, so I thought that it
was a good idea for him to join,” the Dominican immigrant said.
But once he was home she wanted him to stay put.
During his time in Queens, Gomez made the acquaintance of Marie Canario,
a student at Suffolk Community College, while they were both shopping
at Queens Center Mall. When the Army recalled Gomez from reserve status,
he proposed to Canario, but was then sent back to Iraq. Knowing it
would devastate his mother to know he was serving in the military,
he told her he was studying accounting and economics in Texas. He
told his new fiancée not to worry.
While in the Army, Gomez would deposit money into his mother’s
bank account. Maria Gomez questioned why the checks said “Army,”
but she was too thankful for the extra income to challenge it.
On April 28, 2005, Gomez was manning the machine gun on a Humvee when
a roadside bomb detonated. He survived the first blast, which was
quickly followed by another. The second killed the Army Sergeant.
He was 23 years old.
Maria Gomez first learned the truth about her son’s whereabouts
when two soldiers arrived at her Corona apartment with the news of
his death. Gomez’s stepfather, Felix Jimenez, understood the
young man’s priorities.
“He was saving money to buy his mother a house; that was his
main goal,” Jimenez told The New York Times in May 2006.
Gomez is now buried in Astoria’s St. Michael’s Cemetery,
but the Fallen Heroes Web site serves as a testament to his loyalty
and quiet charm. One woman wrote in from San Diego.
“I will never forget you took a two-day bus ride to California
to see me,” Abby Morales wrote. “You showed me how a woman
can be treated, and I will never forget you...I am sorry life took
us separate ways, I wish we had known, but I also know you find true
love, and I know in my heart you guys are together, lasting on forever.”
His Family’s Future Was What Mattered
By BRAD GROZNIK
Name: Julian Ramon
Date of Death: July 20, 2006
For Cpl. Julian A. Ramon, the Marines were a stepping stone to a successful
a mindset to raise his family’s social standing and take financial
stress off his mother, Ramon joined the few and the proud with plans
to eventually attend college.
Ramon, 22, was killed in combat July 20, 2006, just two months before
he was to be sent home for the remainder of his duty.
“After high school, he joined the Marines because he wanted
to make money for college. He wanted to work as a lawyer,” his
mother Yolanda Ramon, told the Tribune in 2006. “I miss him
so much, because he’s my life. He’d call and say ‘I
love you, mommy, I’ll help you, mommy, don’t worry, mommy.’”
Touring Iraq for a second time as a field radio operator since signing
up in 2003, Ramon was killed in the al-Anbar province in Iraq, becoming
the borough’s 15th military casualty in the War on Terror.
He received 11 military awards including a Combat Action ribbon, an
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and three Sea Service Deployment
Diana Zambrano, a childhood friend, left a message on a popular memorial
Web site. In her post she said Ramon was like a second brother for
which there were too many memories to talk write.
“I have the picture of us in Six Flags by my bed,” she
said. “I look at it everyday.”
Zambrano went on to say she still has flashbacks of the day Ramon
fell into the dirty Kissena Park Lake on a BMX bike.
Ramon and his family moved to Flushing from Colombia when he was 4
years old. He graduated in 2002 from John Bowne High School in Flushing,
and worked at Wendy’s and a nearby Off Track Betting hoping
to one day attend John Jay College to pursue a criminal justice degree.
Neville Sadhoo, a school friend, remembers him as a humble, down-to-earth
guy and a good friend.
“I vividly remember seeing Julian my last time, we walked by
each other on 45th Avenue in front of his house,” he wrote on
the memorial message board. “We gave each other a simple handshake
and kept it moving. If I would have stopped to talk to him, maybe
I would have known he was a Marine, instead of finding out from friends
when he died.”
Sadhoo added Ramon taught him of courage, honor and bravery.
Ramon was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd
Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, and would have returned
to his base at Camp LeJeune, N.C., in September 2006 to finish out
his term of duty this April.
Emmanuel Hernandez, a friend from San Antonio and fellow Marine said
Ramon was a great man and a great Marine.
“You are always in my heart, as well as all the other Marines
in 3/8,” he wrote. “Take care of us up there, bro.”
Yolanda and her youngest son, 16-year-old Juan, said they last saw
Ramon in December, when they celebrated the holidays together before
he set out for his second tour of duty. While in Iraq, Ramon called
his family once or twice a week, and during the months before his
death they thought he was becoming battle fatigued.
“He wouldn’t want to get us down or worried about him,
so he would just act strong, but eventually he just couldn’t
hide it anymore,” Juan told the Tribune said in 2006.
“We talked about practically everything, stuff that I couldn’t
tell anyone else. When he went into the Marines, I was proud.”
Juan said. “I was like, ‘you got to do what you got to
Marine Understood He Might Not Return
By LIZ SKALKA
Name: Michael Glover
Home: Far Rockaway
Date of Death: Aug 16, 2006
Following Hurricane Katrina, Lance Cpl. Michael Glover, having recently
graduated from the Marine Corps’ School of Infantry, gathered
two fellow Marines and traveled 1,400 miles to New Orleans.
his charm and determination, Glover managed to navigate through police
barricades and National Guard checkpoints to get to the affected area
to help with the search and rescue effort in downtown New Orleans.
For his fortitude, Glover was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement
Medal before being deployed to Iraq.
His medal reads: “Lance Corporal Glover’s initiative and
selfless devotion to duty reflected great credit upon himself and
are in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and
the United States Naval Service.”
Glover, 28, was killed Aug 16, 2006 in Fallujah by a sniper bullet
taken to the head while on foot patrol.
He was laid to rest Aug. 26 at Flushing’s Mt. St. Mary’s
Cemetery. His funeral services were held at St. Francis de Sales Roman
Catholic Church in Belle Harbor, the parish he was a member of as
Glover was born and grew up in Far Rockaway but moved to Garden City,
L.I. at age 6; he later moved back to Far Rockaway.
His eulogy was given by his cousin Peter Hayden Jr. Glover’s
uncle is former FDNY Chief Peter E. Hayden, who oversaw the rescue
operations at the World Trade Center’s North Tower on Sept.
In his address, Hayden Jr. talked about how Glover was inspired to
join the Marines following Sept. 11. Glover lost a close friend, Charles
Heeran, in the World Trade Center attacks.
“He didn’t talk about it much, but you could see he was
feeling helpless,” Hayden said in published reports. “He
felt he had to do something.”
So he did. In 2005, Glover took a leave of absence from law school
at Pace University after attending for one year. Glover arrived in
Iraq’s Al Anbar province in March 2006. He was supposed to come
home in October of that year.
Glover graduated from Xavier High School in Manhattan and attended
college at SUNY Albany, receiving his degree in business and graduating
with honors. He worked at the State Attorney General’s office
before leaving for Iraq.
Glover was part of the 2nd Battalion of the 25th Marine Corp, referred
to as “New England’s Own,” a reserve unit comprised
of more than 1,000 Marines from the northeastern United States.
At his funeral service, a letter sent from Glover in Iraq was read
“I took an oath – and it’s the best oath I ever
took. I’m at peace if I come back with parts of me missing.
And I’m at peace if I don’t come back at all.”
His family and friends, and even those who did not know him well,
remember Glover as a funny, kind-hearted person who is still mourned
“He had the biggest heart for people and gave of himself all
the time,” said Glover’s mother, Margaret Glover. “He
was a wonderful son.”
Annemarie Heeran, Charles Heeran’s sister, was a close friend
of Glover’s. When Flight 587 crashed in Far Rockaway just months
after Sept. 11, Glover, who was living in upstate New York near Heeran,
drove her home that day to see her family.
“He said ‘Don’t Worry, Annemarie, I’ll get
you back to Rockaway. I’ll get you back to your mom,’”
she said. “Just the fact that I had him that day and I look
back and I’m so thankful.”
She added, “I’m still a mess from losing my brother but
one thing that gets me through the day is that Mike’s with my
brother. They were so young but the main thing is that they’re
Compelled To Re-Up After 1980s Service
By MICHAEL CUSENZA
Name: Denise Lannaman
Date of Death: Oct. 1, 2006
Sgt. Denise Lannaman, 46, felt a call to serve her country after Sept.
11. The terrorist attacks on America stirred the Bayside resident
once again to action, and she re-enlisted in the Army National Guard.
Lannaman had been an electrician in the Navy in the 1980s.
was killed Oct. 1, 2006, in a non-combat related incident at Camp
Arifjan, Kuwait. Assigned to the Army National Guard’s 1569th
Transportation Company out of Newburgh, N.Y., she was the first female
soldier from Queens to die in the War of Terror.
“She was very enthused about everything she did,” Lannaman’s
older sister, Michelle Forgenie, told the Tribune last year. “She
went at everything with gusto.”
Lannaman, a native of Jamaica, served in Iraq before arriving in Kuwait.
She was a truck driver and was due to complete her tour in April 2007.
“She had so many dreams,” Forgenie told the Daily News.
“She was so talented.”
Several memorial Web sites painted a picture of Lannaman as a special
woman who touched countless lives – especially those of her
“I served with Sgt. Lannaman back in 2004-2005 tour of Iraq,”
Jessie Fedorka of Murrieta, Calif. submitted to Lannaman’s guest
page on legacy.com less than two months after her death. “I
was in one of the sister companies whom supported each other. Although,
most of my memories come from Fort Dix, N.J. She lived right across
the hall from me. I remember her smiling face every day, and I remember
the interesting conversations with her. I always learned something
new from Sgt. Lannaman; she would always find away to make me smile.
I am deeply sorry for your losses, we all have truly lost someone
special, but I know she will be with us all forever. She was a wonderful
woman, and let’s remember her as the true American hero she
Sgt. Cristina Frisby of San Diego, Calif. penned a touching letter
to Lannaman’s family a couple of weeks after she died.
“I served with Denise in Iraq. I met her in September 2004,
and she soon became one of my best friends,” Frisby left on
legacy.com. “She loved all of you dearly. Not a day went by
that she didn’t verbally share concern and love for her mother,
her sister, her nephews, and others. She was a great role model for
me in her unselfishness and commitment.
“Please find some peace in knowing that you raised such a wonderful
daughter, who touched many people’s lives, and even tried to
save those, especially the women and children, in another land she
did not know,” Frisby continued. “I will undoubtedly think
about her and the example she set every day for the rest of my life.
She became part of something bigger than her, bigger than all of us,
but she gave it her best and she gave it her all. She is not alone,
nor will she ever be.”
Proud To Be A Dad,Never Met His Son
By LIZ SKALKA
Name: Justin Garcia
Date of Death: Nov. 14, 2006
After losing both parents at age 12, Army Spc. Justin Garcia, 26,
was elated to learn just weeks before his deployment on Father’s
Day that his wife, Michelle, was pregnant with their first child.
was talk of naming the child after Michelle’s father, but following
Garcia’s death on Nov. 14, 2006 resulting from a roadside bomb
explosion in Iraq, loved ones suggested naming the child for Garcia.
“Everyone is telling me that it would be nice to name our son
after Justin, but I know what he wanted was to honor my father,”
Michelle told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 2006. “The original
decision was his, and he died knowing those wishes. I want to respect
them. I don’t want to change them.”
Garcia was an Army specialist serving with the 1st Battalion, 23rd
Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team and died while
riding in a Humvee during combat operations in Baghdad.
He died alongside Col. Thomas H. Felts, 45, of Sandston, Va., one
of the highest ranking U.S. military personnel killed in the war thus
Garcia is originally from Elmhurst, though his funeral services were
held at St. Paul’s Church in Congers, N.Y.
Garcia and Michelle were married July 1, 2005, although they spent
their first anniversary apart after the Stryker Brigade departed for
a year-long deployment in Iraq in the summer of 2004.
Michelle said Garcia always found a way to stay in touch and was scheduled
to come home on leave in February. He “couldn’t wait to
see and his family and meet his son,” Michelle said.
Garcia graduated from St. Agnes High School in Manhattan and earned
a bachelor’s degree from St. Thomas Aquinas College in criminal
He was awarded several medals from the Army including the Army Service
Ribbon, GWOT Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Army
Garcia is survived by his wife, in-laws and a stepbrother and stepsister.
Michelle accepted from the beginning the realities of being an army
“I knew since the day I met him that he wanted to join the Army.
I had prepared myself for it and knew sooner or later that he would
be going to Iraq,” she said. “You just prepare yourself
in your own way. It’s not easy on a relationship, but you do
it because you love the person.”
Garcia was also equally as close with his in-laws.
“I love him,” Vincent Narciso, Garcia’s father-in-law,
told the Journal News. “He was my son.”
He added, “He wanted to serve his country, especially after
Friendly LIC Soldier Killed In Combat
By BRAD GROZNIK
Name: Brian Ritzberg
Home: Long Island City
Date of Death: April 2, 2007
Spec. Brian Ritzberg died in Iraq one week before he would turn 25
24, died April 2, 2007, from wounds he sustained during a combat mission
in the city of Kirkuk, Iraq. He just celebrated his second wedding
Ritzberg was sent to the Kirkuk, Iraq’s oil capital, just a
month after a roadside bomb exploded near his unit.
He wrote on his MySpace personal Web page he was thinking of his family
the whole time he was serving.
“To me family is the most important thing life has to offer,”
he wrote. “When the world turns its back on you they will always
The Long Island City resident was with the 977th Military Police Company
based in Fort Riley, Kan. where his soldier wife was stationed.
Ritzberg’s grandmother supported his sentiment on “Spread
the Word: Iraq-Nam” Web site.
“Brian was a very sweet, spirited man,” she wrote. “He
had a good heart and was good to people. This is a tremendous loss
to our family.”
Ritzberg’s friend PFC Matthew Atmore, of Grand Rapids, Mich.,
wrote on a popular memorial site he remembered Ritzberg to be quiet
at first but over time becoming close friends despite being in separate
“You always came to me with questions and advice, even after
you knew the answer because you valued others’ opinions,”
he wrote. “You were and will always be a great soldier, and
a great friend.”
Atmore, a medic in the 116th Military Police Company, said he was
not Ritzberg’s assigned medic but would come to him over the
“When I was not feeling well he was one of the first people
to see if I was all right and if there was anything he could do to
help, and I was the first person he would go to talk to when he wasn’t
feeling well or when something was bothering him,” he wrote.
Spec. Anthony Autrey, 24 told the Tribune in April, when he was stationed
at Fort Riley, Ritzberg “was a good friend, and always had my
back when I needed him.”
He also described Ritzberg as “loyal” and “free
“He just made me laugh,” Autrey said. “He didn’t
Ritzberg attended Thomas Edison High School in Jamaica where he was
a track and field star. He studied computer repair and electronics
and the magnet high school with aspirations of becoming a police officer.
Ritzberg graduated and went on to Kingsborough Academy in Brooklyn,
where he received an associate’s degree.
In April 2004, Ritzberg joined the U.S. Army Reserve stationed at
Uniondale and became active June 2005 and assigned to the 116th Military
Police Company, Fort Riley, as a gunner and driver in the 2nd Platoon.
In October 2006, he was re-assigned to the 977th Military Police Company
and deployed with the unit in early February.
He was able to spend Thanksgiving with his family, which was the last
time many, including his father, saw him.
He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Iraq Campaign
Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Combat Action
Along with his father and grandmother, he is survived by his wife,
Clara Ritzberg; his mother, Margaret Fields; and his brothers, Dashawn,
Jamal and Saquawn Davis.
Recalled To Iraq Just In Time To Die
By JULIET WERNER
Name: Alphonso Montenegro
Home: Far Rockaway
Date of Death: June 21, 2007
Those who knew Alphonso Montenegro understood that he enlisted in
the Army in order to pay for college. His grandmother had died of
cancer and he hoped to pursue a career in medicine.
grandmother’s death was not the only loss that had a lasting
impact on Montenegro; his father had abandoned the family, leaving
his young mother Sandra to raise five kids. Alphonso was the eldest,
born when Sandra was only 15, and he played an active role in parenting
After graduating from Far Rockaway High School in 2002, however, he
enlisted and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment,
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based in Schweinfurt,
He served his first tour in Iraq in 2004. Then, a week away from completing
his three-year enlistment, the Army told him he was needed again in
Sandra Montenegro remembers her son’s visit home last December
“He had so many plans,” his mother told the Daily News.
Montenegro was ambitious and highly decorated. He earned a Combat
Infantryman Badge in 2004 and an Army Commendation Medal earlier this
year. The young man continued to be presented with accolades, even
On June 21, 2007 an improvised explosive devise detonated in Baghdad,
killing five soldiers including Montenegro who was not supposed to
be on patrol, but had decided to volunteer that day. At 22 years old,
he was the 20th son of Queens to die and was awarded a Purple Heart
and a Bronze Star posthumously.
The Charlotte News & Observer memorial guestbook provides an online
space for prayers and memories.
Sandra Montenegro, who has relocated to North Carolina, wrote in and
expressed the sense of guilt that still plagues her.
“I will wait for the day we will be together again,” she
wrote. “I know you will be waiting for me to hug me like you
did in Dec.19, 2006. The last time I hug you I did not want to let
go of you. I am sorry I let go. I shouldn’t let go.”
Friends from the Army wrote in as well.
“I will never forget all the times that we messed with him about
50 Cent and Jay-Z,” Kristopher Schulze of Keller, Tex. wrote.
“I will always miss playing video games with him and pestering
him in his room. Seeing him and always making him laugh would be a
highlight of my day. I will truly miss him and I can’t wait
to see him and Wood in heaven.”
On the day of her son’s funeral at Evergreen Cemetery, Sandra
received an unpleasant surprise. Her ex-husband, who she had not seen
in 17 years, arrived and demanded possession of Alphonso’s medals.
When he became violent, police units and the Sheriff’s deputies
Unable to share the loss of a child with a spouse, Sandra has received
more comforting words from other grieving mothers.
“Both of our sons entered the gates of heaven together,”
Renee Wood Vincent wrote in the guestbook. “I am the mother
of Sgt Ryan Mitchell Wood, and I know that your heart is broken too.
I am praying for your family every day, and hope that you find peace
in the memories of your precious son.”
Youngest GI Killed Came From Boro
By MELISSA PLATA
Name: Le Ron Wilson
Date of Death: July 6, 2007
Le Ron Wilson was only a teenager when he joined the growing list
of soldiers from Queens to pay the ultimate price supporting Operation
was fixated on joining the military just like his father, Cadet Force
Major Lawrence Wilson, in Trinidad where Le Ron was born. At 11 years
old, he moved to Queens to live with his mother and attended Magna
Tech Junior High 231 then went on to graduate from Thomas Edison High
Before finishing high school Wilson begged his mother to sign the
enrollment papers since he was only 16 and needed parental consent.
For his 17th birthday he said “I don’t want anything for
my birthday just sign the papers for me.” His mind was set on
joining the Armed Forces and he never wavered from his lifelong dream.
In June 2006, Le Ron Wilson fulfilled his dream and joined the United
States Army where he achieved the rank of Private First Class. After
basic training he became part of the 26th Brigade Support Battalion,
2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, in Fort Stewart, Ga.
Wilson received two promotions and was selected twice for soldier
of the month. He was finally living out his childhood fantasy which
came to a fatal end in July 2007. After serving in the Army for just
over a year Wilson’s life ended prematurely when his vehicle
hit an explosive device. He is, so far, the youngest U.S. soldier
to die in the war.
On his myspace.com Web page which is still running, Wilson describes
himself as “a black, Venezuelan, Chinese, Portuguese guy –
a mutt. The name’s Wilson. I’m from NYC and currently
residing in Georgia as part of the 3rd ID. Hmm let’s see, I
love to travel, play sports and meet new people.”
He also mentioned that he wanted to visit Japan and Italy and learn
a couple of new languages. Friends continue to post messages on his
page expressing their grief and loss for the fallen soldier. Earlier
this year Mark Nichik posted: “It’s so sad a poor family
must lose their child, but no American politician has lost a child
to this senseless war; when will it stop?”
The funeral service for the fallen Queens soldier took place July
17, 2007 in New York before he was laid to rest at the Long Island
Cemetery in Farmingdale. After his death Wilson’s family was
presented with a Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Metal and
Iraq Campaign Metal in honor of their son.
On Wednesday Aug. 29, further tribute was paid to him with a memorial
service at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, Maraval Road,
Newton, Trinidad and Tobago.
His Grieving Mom Holds Tight To Casket
By MICHAEL CUSENZA
Name: Jonathan Rivadeneira
Home: Jackson Heights
Date of Death: Sept. 14, 2007
The image captures the gut-wrenching tragedy birthed by war. It is
of Martha Clark, mother of slain Spec. Jonathan Rivadeneira, hugging
her son’s flag-draped coffin at his funeral, her right cheek
pressed against the immaculate cloth, desperate for one more embrace
that she knows she’ll never get.
of Jackson Heights, was killed along with three other soldiers Sept.
14, 2007, in Muqdadiyah, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device
was detonated near their vehicle during combat operations. He was
22 years old.
“I hope his death is not in vain but for a good reason and that
all these kids come home,” Clark said in a vigil in Corona days
after learning of her only child’s death. “Please stop
this war so that our children stop shedding blood and dying.”
Rivadeneira, Staff Sgt. Terry Wagoner, Cpl. Todd Motley and Pfc. Christopher
McCloud were assigned to the 6th Squadron, 9th U.S. Cavalry, 3rd Brigade
Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based out of Fort Hood, Tex.
“He gave up his relative safety at the aid station in order
to serve with these guys and put his life on the line,” Rivadeneira’s
commanding officer, Sgt. Josh Lawton-Belous, explained to USA Today.
“He volunteered to be with these guys.”
Clark is opposed to the war and warned her son about the potential
danger he faced if he joined the service.
“My mission is to make change and support the children.”
she said at the vigil. “What they live through and experience
there is not made public, I realize how much they are suffering and
must be saved.”
Rivadeneira was a native of Colombia. He enlisted in the Army after
graduating from high school and met his wife, Heather, in boot camp.
The two were married in April 2005.
Rivadeneira was deployed to Iraq in October 2006 and served as a medic.
He died two months shy of completing his tour supporting Operation
“As the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Heath Affairs, a
doctor and a father, my heart goes out to all of our fallen heroes,
but as the head of the Military Health System it is especially difficult
losing one of our own,” Hon. S. Ward Casscells, M.D., said.
“To the family and friends of Spec. Rivadeneira, especially
his wife Heather Nied, we salute and honor your strength, dedication
and courage. Like other first responders and military heroes, Spec.
Rivadeneira will be remembered as a man who wore the cloth of his
nation and gave his life to the cause of freedom.”
On Verge Of Career His Life Is Taken
By LIZ SKALKA
Name: Chirasak Vidhyarkorn
Date of Death: Sept. 29, 2007
Described as an engineering genius by his family, Chirasak Vidhyarkorn
was destined for greatness.
32-year-old Bayside resident had studied to become an environmental
engineer, and following a year-long tour in Iraq in 2004 he enrolled
in a master’s program at The New York Institute of Technology
in Long Island. He returned to Iraq, however, in February 2007.
Before his Sept. 29, 2007, death in Diwaniyah, Iraq, which was caused
by a non-combat-related incident still under investigation, Vidhyarkorn
was planning to tell his family he had been offered a high-paying
job in the United States. He died only days before he was supposed
to come back to the country to celebrate his cousin’s 21st birthday.
Vidhyarkorn was born in the Bronx and later moved to Thailand, where
his parents still reside. Eventually, he moved back to New York to
live with relatives in Bayside.
“That just broke my heart,” Vidhyarkorn’s aunt Saipun
Kunatee told the Queens Tribune earlier about her nephew’s death,
adding, “He was a very talented and smart guy.”
Vidhyarkorn was part of the Battery C, 2nd Battalion of the Arkansas
Army National Guard’s 142nd Fire Brigade based in Ozark, Ark.
He originally enlisted in the National Guard in 2000 as a water purification
Vidhyarkorn’s initial deployment to Iraq was in January 2003,
followed by another trip there in July of that year. He went on inactive
duty in December 2003, only to return to active duty in late 2006.
He was redeployed to Iraq in February of this year.
Vidhyarkorn had a distinguished military career for which he won numerous
awards including a Bronze Star. He was promoted to sergeant posthumously.
Following the news of their son’s death, Vidhyarkorn’s
parents traveled to the United States from Thailand, though relatives
indicated obtaining a visa was a hard process.
“To get [a] visa after Sept. 11 they have to prove everything,”
At the time of his death, Vidhyarkorn’s relatives wished not
to speak too much about him because “it’s looked down
upon in Thailand to fight for the U.S.,” Kunatee said.
“His parents don’t want us to say anything and I have
to respect their wishes,” she added.
Vidhyarkorn’s funeral services were held at the Gerard F. Neufeld
Funeral Home located in Elmhurst on Oct. 12, 14 and 15.
On the memorial Web site Legacy.com, friends, who refer to him as
Chris and “Thon,” have left messages describing Vidhyarkorn
as a funny, warm individual.
“I am so, so sorry to hear of Thon’s passing,” wrote
Monvasi Pachinburavan from Philadelphia. “I remember him as
a great guy and a dear friend. A.k.a. ‘the professor’
in school, he was warm, thoughtful, intelligent, fun and always, always
made me laugh. He meant the world to his parents, and they to him.”
Queens Army Ranger Killed In 2nd Tour
By BRAD GROZNIK
Name: Jeffery Calero
Home: Queens Village
Date of Death: Oct. 26, 2007
There are no lights strung at the Calero’s home this Christmas.
the house is adorned with festive lights outside and the smell of
cookies and roast beef inside, but not this year.
Raymond and Roselle lost their son Jeffery Oct. 26 when an improvised
explosive device detonated while he conducted a combat patrol in the
southern Afghan city of Kajaki. Maj. Jeffery Calero was the 24th soldier
from Queens to have died in the war.
“It’s been very tough,” Raymond said. “It’s
something that stays with you.”
The Calero house is usually filled with friends and family Christmas
Eve, but Raymond said they decided not to do it this year. Instead,
Jeffery’s boxes and trunks have started to arrive from Afghanistan
and other bases where he was stationed.
Raymond said they have been there for a couple weeks but they have
not yet gone through them.
It was always a dream to join the military. He earned high distinction
by earning and donning the coveted Green Beret.
“He was all for the cause,” Maj. Calero’s father,
Raymond, said. “He felt he was preventing another attack here
by fighting over there.”
Maj. Calero was buried at Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island.
His family recently visited his gravesite to add a small Christmas
Raymond said he and his wife have continued to meet with the military
to sum up all of his accounts.
Maj. Calero did not leave a will but mentioned several times he wanted
his money to be passed to his nieces and nephews. Raymond said they
would set up a college fund account with the money left by their son.
Calero was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group
(Airborne), Massachusetts National Guard out of Springfield, Mass.
It was the second time Maj. Calero, 34, was sent to Afghanistan after
his first tour in 2003.
Calero was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Queens when he was 1 year
old. He graduated in 1991 from Saint Francis Preparatory High School
where he excelled as a defensive and offensive tackle for the school’s
championship football team, his father said.
“He was a good kid,” Raymond said. “He loved to
mess around with his cars.”
Calero’s mother, Roselle, said he was quiet and loved to read.
“He was my hero,” she said.
Calero continued his education at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
in Troy, where he enrolled in ROTC and graduated with a degree in
mechanical engineering in 1995.
He served six years active duty and was first sent to Korea as a rifle
platoon leader. Calero left active duty in 2001 and joined the U.S.
Army National Guard.
Calero was working for FSI Architecture as an engineer, living in
Manhattan and hoping to earn his Professional Engineering License
so he could open his own firm when he left for Afghanistan early in
His awards and decorations include three Army Commendation Medals,
Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, National Defense Service
Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary
Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve
Medal, Army Service Ribbon, two Overseas Service Ribbons, Combat Infantryman
Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge,
Ranger Tab, and the Special Forces Tab.