Wednesday, February 07, 2007

David Canegata laid to rest

ST. CROIX - Joyful songs of worship and praise filled the air at Island Center on Thursday morning in celebration of the life and legacy of fallen soldier Lt. Col. David Canegata III - a deeply spiritual man, a devoted family man and a dedicated soldier.

That is what he would have wanted, his family and close friends said.

"This is who my husband was - he was a worshipper - and I promised I would do him right," said his widow, Shenneth Canegata, who sang in loving tribute to him.

V.I. National Guardsmen Canegata, a St. Croix native, and Sgt. 1st Class Floyd Lake Sr., a St. Thomas native, were among the 12 soldiers on board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter that crashed northeast of Baghdad in Diyala province about 2:45 p.m. on Jan. 20. They were the V.I. National Guard's first casualties since it began deploying troops overseas for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

More than 1,500 mourners attended the funeral service at Island Center on Thursday morning, including former V.I. adjutant generals, government officials, hundreds of V.I. guardsmen and members of Speak the Word Ministries, the church to which Canegata belonged. Cars stretched for more than a mile along Island Center Road from the entrance past the neighboring Queens Quarter neighborhood.

During the service, Canegata was lauded not only for his military service and ultimate sacrifice, but for the love he showed his family and friends and for his strong faith in God. Those who spoke of him said he lived a full life and accomplished many of his goals in his career and in his personal life.

"My heart is at peace because he did what he wanted to do - with honor," Shenneth Canegata said.

She said while many pay homage to his memory with words, the real tribute would be to strengthen their own faith in God.

"If you want to honor my husband, then get to know his Jehovah," she said. "If you want to emulate my husband, then get to know his Jehovah. If you admire my husband, then get to know his Jehovah. If you love my husband, get to know his Jehovah."

There were moments of laughter as Canegata's sister, Dianne Canegata-Powell, delivered her brother's eulogy.

She said that as a boy he played with G.I. Joe action figures and even ironed their tiny uniforms. And as a youth, he was meticulous about his appearance and kept a neat "afro," often fighting his three sisters for the bathroom mirror, she said. Even then, he was aspiring to be a soldier, she said.

In a more serious moment, Canegata-Powell spoke of her brother's 50th birthday, which was celebrated last September.

Canegata-Powell said that on his birthday, he gave them a booklet with a timeline of his life from birth that included pictures and scriptures.

"Something about this booklet was different," she said. "I believe he left this booklet to prepare us. He wanted us to know that in the end, what really mattered was his relationship with God."

She said when he told the family he was deploying to Afghanistan, he also told them not to be sad and not to cry because he was honored to go and his work as a soldier was his passion.

"In the midst of this storm, our family is experiencing an unusual peace," she said. "He did not leave us guessing. There were no unanswered questions."

Several V.I. National Guardsmen who worked closely with Canegata said he was the epitome of Army values - loyalty, duty, respect, integrity, personal courage, and selfless service.

V.I. Adjutant General Eddy Charles said his heart cried out for Canegata, who had been his protege, a warrior and his brother in Christ.

"He was always positive and alive," Charles said. "We are all prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. David did. May he rest in peace."

Speak the Word Ministries Pastor Dexter Skepple gave the sermon, offering words of encouragement.

"What the Lord would say to you today is to find the positive in every negative," he said "David lived his life with purpose. We can be proud that we knew him."

Canegata was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star for his contributions and meritorious service in Iraq, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal and V.I. Distinguished Service Medal.

The burial at the Christiansted cemetery followed the funeral service. After taps and a 21-gun salute, Charles presented Shenneth Canegata with the U.S. flag and former V.I. adjutant general Charles Hood presented Canegata's parents with a U.S. flag.

Canegata joined the V.I. National Guard in 1985. He was the V.I. National Guard's deputy chief of staff for operations and plans before he accepted the National Guard Bureau tour. He was a primary adviser to the adjutant general on matters concerning intelligence, security, military support, training, aviation support and counter-drug operations.

He is survived by his four children, Nicole, David-Mychal, Andre and Jessica; grandson, David-Mychal Jr.; parents, Carmen and David Canegata Jr.; sisters, Dianne Canegata Powell, Terri Evans and Yvette Canegata-Jones; brother, John Canegata; and many more family and friends.

From the Daily News

Related Link:
David C. Canegata killed in helicopter crash