Sunday, March 25, 2007

Angel Rosa laid to rest

Two hours before mourners arrived at Sacred Heart church in Portland, custodian Rocco DiDonato stood beneath the twin spires, chipping ice from the sidewalk.

The morning was bright, cold and without clouds.

Around the corner, Mike Edgecomb prepared the Patriot Guard Riders, a veterans group, to keep any protesters away from the church.

And U.S. Marine Sgt. Garry Wilson talked quietly to the other Marines who would carry the flag-draped casket into the church sanctuary.

Many of the several hundred people who attended Wednesday's funeral were Angel Rosa's closest friends and relatives. Others -- like DiDonato, Edgecomb and Wilson -- never met him.

All of them came to pay respects to Rosa, a 21-year-old Marine who was killed last week in Iraq.
"Our unit just got back from Iraq in October," Wilson said. "Two of them knew Angel. It's an honor for us to be here."

Rosa, a 2004 graduate of South Portland High School, was killed in combat on March 13 in Anbar province. He had just finished advanced training before being deployed to Iraq in January from his base in North Carolina.

The Department of Defense says Rosa died while serving with a Marine expeditionary unit, but no further details about his death have been released.

He was posthumously promoted to lance corporal, and was awarded the Purple Heart.

At 11 a.m. Wednesday, the funeral procession pulled up to the Sacred Heart/St. Dominic parish church on Mellen Street. The Marines carried Rosa's casket, which was followed by Rosa's wife, 21-year-old Elise Rosa, who wiped away tears.

Months before he went to Iraq, Angel married Elise at South Portland City Hall. They often talked about the time of his return, when they would invite all of their loved ones to a formal Catholic wedding, to be held here at this church.

Instead, Elise and three of Rosa's best friends spoke to those in attendance on Wednesday about a life cut short.

Church officials estimated the attendance at 750 people, including Gov. John Baldacci, who presented medals and flags to Elise Rosa and Anna Bradbury, Rosa's mother. After the service, people gathered outside. Above all else, they recalled Rosa's leadership and loyalty.

"I haven't been home in a year. To come home for something like this is really unfortunate," said Cpl. Matthew Caruso, who graduated from high school with Rosa and also joined the Marines. He is stationed in Okinawa, Japan, and flew home for the funeral.

"For us, it's not like losing a friend, it's like losing a brother," he said. He spoke with Rosa, via the Internet, in February.

"He said, 'I wish you were here with me, bro,'" Caruso said.

Shawn Emerton, another member of the South Portland class of 2004, ran into Rosa when he was home on leave, before deploying to Iraq.

"I told him how proud I was of what he was doing with his life," Emerton said. "He was a leader by example for so many people, me especially. I was in a lot of trouble growing up, and he was able to rise above all of that.

"I'll always take with me his smile," Emerton said. "And his attitude. You couldn't break him."

From the Herald

Related Link:
Angel Rosa remembered

Related Link:
Angel Rosa dies of wounds received during combat operation