Saturday, February 24, 2007

Thomas Saba laid to rest

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Marine Cpl. Thomas Saba, who was killed in Iraq last week, was laid to rest yesterday in Moravian Cemetery, New Dorp, only three graves away from another military son of Staten Island, buried in December.

Saba, 30, formerly of Grymes Hill -- one of seven who died Feb. 7 when their Sea Knight helicopter was shot down -- was remembered by family members as a compassionate, loving son, brother and uncle who was ready to sacrifice everything for what he believed in.

"I know Tommy was an American hero, but that will never beat out how Tommy is our family hero," said Saba's sister, Mary Ellen Ditchkus, who eulogized her brother during a 90-minute funeral mass in St. Teresa's R.C. Church, Castleton Corners.

Saba's mother, Barbara, wept and clutched the arm of her husband, Anthony, as seven Marines bore her son's flag-draped casket into the church. About 300 mourners, including members of numerous veterans' groups, attended the funeral.

Saba enlisted with the Marines in April 2002 in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Recently, he extended his five-year tour by five months so that he could go with his Okinawa, Japan-based squadron to Iraq. His Marine CH-46 troop transport was shot down northwest of Baghdad by an al-Qaida-linked Sunni group. He was due to be discharged this spring.

"I told him, 'Don't go, you don't have to go,'" said Anthony Saba, his brother. "But he said, 'I have to go.' He explained to me that he had to go for his 'brothers.' Tommy was one of the most compassionate people I know."

Saba's parents moved to Toms River, N.J., about a decade ago. Saba, who had remained on Staten Island, moved in with them for a short time before enlisting.

The Rev. John O'Hara portrayed Saba as a brave man who chose a path different than those taken by many of his peers.

"We come together as family today to salute and celebrate a young man who answered a call, and that call began on Sept. 11, 2001," Father O'Hara said. "This young man chose to be different. This young man didn't ask, 'What's in it for me?' He asked, 'What can I do?' This man raised his hand and took the oath and joined the Marine Corps. ... People tell me there are no heroes, but oh, yes, there are. We've got one we're remembering here."

Monsignor James Dorney, pastor of St. Peter's R.C. Church, New Brighton, and the Catholic vicar for the Island, read a letter from Cardinal Edward Egan to the Saba family.

Addressing the family, Dorney said, "Even in the midst of sadness, we can be proud of one who has served well. Thomas Saba, well done, good and faithful servant."

Patriotic hymns dominated the funeral, most notably "God Bless America," which was sung at the family's request as the casket was borne out of the church.

An eight-member Marine squad fired three shots into the air and a bugler played "Taps" before two Marines folded the flag that had draped the coffin and presented it to Saba's parents.

Saba was buried along with the remains of Ms. Ditchkus' unborn daughter, Gianna.

From the Advance

Related Link:
Thomas E. Saba remembered

Related Link:
Thomas E. Saba killed in helicopter crash