Thursday, July 05, 2007

Trista Moretti laid to rest

Wearing her sister's dog tags, Jennifer Moretti stood before hundreds of mourners at a South Plainfield church yesterday and paid tribute to the younger sibling she admired.

"She was fearlessly brave when most of us would hide behind a tree," said Jennifer Moretti during a tearful eulogy. Then she spoke to her sister in the casket before her.

"We hope that you are as proud of us as we are of you," said Moretti. "I hope one day to see you again. It was an honor to be your sister."

Sgt. Trista L. Moretti, 27, was killed June 25 by insurgents at an Army base near Nasir Lafitah, Iraq. She was asleep in her trailer when it was hit by mortar fire. Moretti is at least the 78th soldier with ties to New Jersey and the second woman from the state to be killed in Iraq.

During the solemn and simple funeral at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, family, friends and fellow soldiers described a generous soldier with an adventurous spirit and a positive view of life.

Moretti loved the thrill of travel, they said, and cherished her Army career because it gave her a chance to see the world and share her experiences with loved ones.

"Trista, I am really hoping you are having more adventures and that you're getting into trouble," said Jennifer Moretti.

She kept in close contact with her sister while she was overseas serving as a signal intelligence analyst and paratrooper after join ing the Army in 2003. Moretti was assigned to the 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.

The Rev. John Alvarado, pastor of Sacred Heart, said Moretti's death deeply affected those throughout the community, particularly with the funeral on the eve of the July Fourth holiday.

"As a nation tomorrow, we pause to celebrate our indepen dence," he said. "As a family today, we gather today to see at what cost."

Flags throughout South Plainfield were at half staff yesterday, and purple ribbons adorned utility poles to mark Moretti's death.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Timothy McHale told the mourners that he was moved by tales of Moretti's life offered by her fellow soldiers in Iraq.

"She was tough, caring and decisive," McHale said. "She was full of life and was always positive."

Moretti was admired for her athleticism, hard work and confi dence, McHale added. She often spoke of her family, her days in field hockey and track to her fel low soldiers, he said. Moretti was proud to be an Italian-American and a Jersey girl, McHale said.

He presented her parents, Judy and Fred Moretti, with the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the Combat Action Badge and the Iraq Campaign Medal. At the graveside, McHale also gave the family two American flags.

Moretti graduated from South Plainfield High School in 1998. She enlisted in the Army in 2003 and was stationed in Texas and Alaska before her deployment to Iraq.

Before the ceremony, the Patriot Guard Riders, a volunteer group of motorcyclists, stood vigil outside the church holding large American flags.

The South Plainfield Police Department provided an escort from the church to the Rosedale Cemetery in Linden. A borough fire truck carried the flowers from the church to the grave.

Under a brilliant blue sky, a military honor guard carried Moretti's casket to a sunny corner of the cemetery, where family and friends tearfully placed red and white flowers as bagpipes played in the background.

During a brief graveside prayer, Alvarado reflected on Moretti's life with a quote from St. Augustine: "The world is a book and those who do not travel, read only one page."

From the Star Ledger

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