Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Jonathan Rivadeneira laid to rest

U.S. Army Spc. Jonathan Rivadeneira's young wife stood Tuesday in the bright sunlight near his coffin in St. Michael's Cemetery in East Elmhurst.

"It was his strength I loved the most," she said before breaking into tears.

Army medic Heather Nied, 21, said her husband was working toward his dream of becoming a nurse when he died.

"We were young when we got married, but I always thought Jonathan knew he had his whole life figured out," she said.

Rivadeneira, 22, and three other soldiers was killed Sept. 14 in Mugdadiyah, Iraq, when their vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device during combat operations.

The men were from the 6th Squadron, 9th U.S. Cavalry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division of Fort Hood, Texas. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Terry D. Wagoner, 28, of Piedmont, S.C.; Cpl. Todd A. Motley, 23, of Clare, Mich.; and Pfc. Christopher M. McCloud, 24, of Malakoff, Texas.

Rivadeneira, the only child of Martha Clark, who immigrated to the United States from Colombia, was born and reared in Jackson Heights, where he attended PS 69 and St. Joan of Arc School.

Nied and Rivadeneira met at boot camp in 2004 and were married in April 2005.

Rivadeneira was deployed to Iraq as a medic in October 2006, and was scheduled to return in December, officials said.

About 200 mourners attended his funeral Mass yesterday morning at St. Joan of Arc Church in Jackson Heights.

The Rev. Stephen Valdazo, the parish priest, noted that Rivadeneira was baptized in the church when he was an infant.

"Today we feel the absence of Jonathan," he said.

Clark told the gathered relatives, friends and schoolchildren that her son was happy as a boy.

"As a mother, he was the most special thing for me," she said, speaking in Spanish.

Her sisters, Rubiela Ruiz and Leticia Ruiz, traveled to New York from Colombia to attend the funeral.

The bereaved mother said she believes those killed in combat should be remembered in a special way.

"All the soldiers who died should not be called heroes; they should be called martyrs," Clark said in her eulogy.

During prayers before the burial, Clark spread her arms over the flag draping the coffin, caressing the fabric and crying.

Nied, who is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in April, was expected to seek a hardship waiver, said an aide to Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-Corona).

"I have faith he is in a better place now," Nied said. "One day we will meet him again."

From Newsday

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Jonathan Rivadeneira remembered

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Jonathan Rivadeneira dies 'of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations'