Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Trista Moretti remembered at wake

SOUTH PLAINFIELD -- Hundreds came to show support for the family of U.S. Army Sgt. Trista L. Moretti, 27, during her eight-hour wake Monday afternoon at the McCriskin-Gustafson Home for Funerals, funeral home manager Jim Gustafson said.

Moretti was killed June 25 in Nasir Lafitah, Iraq, when her unit was attacked by insurgents, military officials announced Wednesday.

The funeral home, which is down the block from Veterans Memorial Park, was flanked by two South Plainfield police cars and a firetruck with ladder extended and a large, waving American flag.

Inside, an arrangement of images, possessions and moving slides showed off the smile and the brave, adventurous and affectionate spirit Moretti was known for: Moretti smiling with her friends, arm raised in a toast; Moretti wearing a silly grin and sparkly green beads wrapped around her head; Moretti proudly sporting a T-shirt emblazoned with the name of a favorite pizza parlor; Moretti wearing her uniform and a beaming smile.

The display also featured artifacts from Moretti's bright career at South Plainfield High School before she graduated in 1998: her well-loved field hockey sticks wrapped with duct tape; her green and white South Plainfield letter jacket; a photo of her and her teammates rejoicing on the field in mid-air, celebrating a double-overtime victory against Piscataway High School.

Moretti was always smiling, said Theresa Coker, a neighbor, who attended the wake Monday and said later by telephone that she had been one of Moretti's neighbors "since (Moretti) was born." In a neighborhood where most of the children already had grown up, Moretti and her older sister, Jennifer, were known as "the cute little kids on the block," and would ride their bicycles around the neighborhood and rearrange her husband's rock garden.

"She was a good girl. Fun. She would come over and play," Coker said. "She was just a joy to know."

Moretti's thoughtfulness grew with age, Coker said. When Coker's husband, Joseph Coker, died in December, Moretti wrote her newly widowed neighbor "the sweetest letter" from Iraq, full of little memories about which Theresa Coker said she had forgotten.

"She's very caring," Theresa Coker said. "I didn't expect it. She kept in touch over the past few months. She was a very caring person. She thought of others. When I got the letter, it touched me that she would do that, and it was such a nice letter. She remembered a lot of things about my husband that I had kind of forgotten. It was sweet."

The Moretti family has been reliving memories of their fallen soldier with visiting friends and family, bringing on a deluge of mixed emotions, Coker said.

"It's a case of one minute you're crying, one minute you're laughing," Coker said. "They're trying to hold up, let's put it that way -- but it's not easy. It was not an expected thing."

Five members of Moretti's family and friends declined comment, and deferred comment to her immediate family, who later asked a reporter to leave the funeral home and did not return requests for contact left with funeral home management.

"Trista Moretti will always be remembered as a loving and generous daughter, sister, and friend," the family said in a statement issued last week. "She was a brave soldier who courageously served her country, sacrificing her life for the lives of others.

"She will be honored and cherished by all who knew her. We would like to thank our family, friends, and community for their ongoing support during this difficult time. We would also like to extend our continuous support to all the troops serving overseas."

Moretti, who attended William Paterson University from 1998-00 before joining the Army in April 2003, was killed by indirect fire. This usually means a mortar attack or other small projectile fire, according to a spokesman for her unit, which is based at Fort Richardson, Alaska.She was stationed in San Antonio until 2005, when she re-enlisted and was assigned to Alaska. After training for approximately a year in Alaska, Moretti's unit was activated in October 2006 and deployed to Iraq.

Moretti is the second female soldier from New Jersey to be killed in Iraq, according to a casualty list maintained by The Associated Press. The first, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ashley L. Huff, who grew up in the Belle Mead section of Montgomery, was killed Sept. 19 in Mosul by a roadside bomb.

Moretti was the 45th soldier killed in Iraq from her unit, the 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry division. The unit was deployed in October and due to return in early January.

Moretti is survived by her parents, Judy and Fred Moretti, and her sister, Jennifer.

From the Courier News

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Trista Moretti remembered

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Trista L. Moretti dies 'when her unit was attacked by insurgents using indirect fire'