Monday, April 16, 2007

Daniel Fuentes laid to rest

The gray coffin of Spc. Daniel Fuentes came out of the funeral home serenaded by a bagpipes and drums version of "Amazing Grace" as more than 100 family members and high school friends said goodbye to the fallen Levittown hero.

As his coffin draped with the American flag was placed in a hearse, his pregnant fiancee Emma McGarry cried out, "My baby, my baby," as relatives restrained her.

Fuentes, 19, died April 6 in Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Iraq, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

At a brief morning funeral service in Wantagh, the family was presented by an Army official with five medals for Fuentes, including the Combat Infantry Badge, Purple Heart and War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.

Dozens of friends from Island Trees High School stood teary-eyed as Fuentes' coffin was brought outside. Each relative and friend wore a small photo, with a yellow ribbon attached, of Fuentes in his green uniform and beret.

Nearby, several politicians stood silently to pay their respects, including Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray and Nassau Legis. Dennis Dunne (R-Levittown).

Master Sgt. Amilcar Rodriguez, a reservist mobilized to Fort Dix, N.J., said his cousin was planning to become a ranger.

"I know it sounds cliché but he loved being a soldier," said Rodriguez. "It was challenging but he did it. He had great things going."

Relatives of Fuentes, known for sending poetic e-mails from the battlefield to loved ones, described him as down to earth, private and family-oriented.

Stephanie Mota, 17, a cousin, recalled her last e-mail from Fuentes a day before he died. "He sent me an e-mail saying, 'Pray for me,'" she said, tears streaming down her cheeks. "He said he was coming back in September and that he wanted us to celebrate him coming back home. He was a great person."

Fuentes' godfather Silva Rodrigo said he last remembered Fuentes laughing hysterically with high school friends in front of Fuentes' home.

"He was just eager to go," Rodrigo said. "I don't think he knew what was really out there."

At the Long Island National Cemetery in Pinelawn, Nancy Fuentes, flanked by her husband Armando, placed flowers at the head of her son's coffin and said through tears, "My son, my son."

His tombstone rested against a tree near the gravesite and read, in part: "Forever in our hearts."

From Newsday

Related Link:
Daniel Fuentes remembered at wake

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Daniel A. Fuentes dies of injuries from I.E.D.