Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Alphonso Montenegro laid to rest

Sandra Montenegro's hand never strayed far from the flag-draped casket of her son, Alphonso Junior Montenegro II, who was slain by a bomb in Iraq and laid to rest Monday in Evergreen Cemetery.

Prior to being interred, dozens of family and friends gathered at St. Therese Catholic Church to say farewell to a soldier, a brother, a friend and a son.

Montenegro, 22, along with four other soldiers, died of wounds sustained from a roadside bomb June 21 in Baghdad. The bomb exploded near their vehicle killing all five, according to a press release from the Department of Defense.

Montenegro was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based in Schweinfurt, Germany.

He enlisted in the Army in 2002 after graduating from Far Rockaway High School, in Far Rockaway, N.Y. According to Department of Defense records, Montenegro was promoted to the rank of sergeant in October of 2006.

During his tenure in the Army, Montenegro earned a Combat Infantryman Badge in 2004 and an Army Commendation Medal earlier this year. The commendation medal was earned because of Montenegro's exhibiting "tactical and technical competence as a team leader."

On Monday, two more medals were awarded posthumously, a Purple Heart for wounds received and a Bronze Star for bravery.

When presenting the medals to Montenegro's mother, Brig. Gen. Arthur Bartell called the fallen Montenegro a hero.

But it wasn't wartime service that made Montenegro a hero to his sister Jennifer. It was his character that did the trick. Jennifer described her brother as a man who gave his all for his family.

"He was so special. Since our dad left, he took it upon himself to be responsible and teach us what we're supposed to do. He taught the right values," she said. "To me he was my father. He always took care of me, he took care of everyone and especially our mom."

But those new medals were also the spark of a family squabble in the parking lot of the church following the funeral, according to a police report.

A man dressed all in black, whom authorities identified as Montenegro's birth father, tried to retrieve the medals from Sandra Montenegro, which is what started the altercation.

Jennifer Montenegro said the fight was over issues much deeper than the possession of medals. She said the fight stemmed from her father, Alphonso J. Montenegro Sr., abandoning their family 17 years ago.

She said he only surfaced after news of her brother's death was first reported.

At first, the argument appeared to be over with just a few words rapidly exchanged in Spanish. However, that wasn't the case.

Uniformed clad men from various services kept several men apart in the parking lot of the church, while other family members and friends, both men and women, tried to intervene, including several who exited the limousine provided by Joyner's Funeral Home.

The altercation was quickly brought under control as local authorities took control of the situation. But backup was called for the graveside service held at Evergreen Cemetery. About half a dozen units from both the Sheriff's department and Wilson Police Department responded.

No arrests were made.

The graveside service, including the presentation of the flag, was completed without any additional incident.

The man in black was kept about 200 yards from the grave.

From the Wilson Times

Related Link:
Alphonso J. Montenegro II dies 'of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'