Friday, September 21, 2007

Jonathan Rivadeneira remembered

Dozens of family members, friends and neighbors gathered in Corona on Monday night for a prayer vigil to honor a fallen soldier from Jackson Heights.

Army Spc. Jonathan Rivadeneira, 22, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq on Friday, Sept. 14.

He is the fifth soldier from Queens to die in the war this year. Twenty-one soldiers from the borough have died since the war began.

In a statement, Borough President Helen Marshall expressed her sympathy.

“It seems that the war has taken the lives of an inordinate number of soldiers from Queens with Jonathan now joining the ranks of our honored veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice. On behalf of the people of Queens, I extend our heartfelt condolences and sympathy to Jonathan’s mother, Martha, his wife, Heather, and all his family, friends and colleagues.”

Monday night’s vigil took place at the home of Maria Duran, whose son, Army Spc. Alex Jimenez, went missing in Iraq in May.

Photos of both young men were displayed on a small table in Duran’s backyard. She sat beside Rivadeneira’s mother, Martha Clark, throughout the candlelight vigil as songs and prayers were recited in Spanish. The vigil marked the beginning of nine days of prayer for Rivadeneira.

Clark was informed of her son’s death on Friday night. The Department of Defense formally announced the deaths of Rivadeneira and three other soldiers from Fort Hood’s 6th Squadron, 9th U.S. Cavalry earlier this week.

According to the department, the four soldiers died from injuries suffered when an improvised explosive device was detonated near their vehicle in Muqdadiyah, Iraq, about 60 miles north of Baghdad.

Rivadeneira, who was deployed to Iraq in October of last year, was expecting to come home in November. He had joined the Army in March, 2004, at the age of 18.

Speaking through Julissa Ferreras, Councilman Hiram Monserrate’s chief of staff, Clark said her son had joined the Army to help defray the cost of college, but had never expected to be deployed if he was enrolled in school.

Clark expressed the importance of peace and the absurdity of a war she said has no meaning or significance.

Rivadeneira was Clark’s only child. He grew up in Jackson Heights and attended P.S. 69 elementary school and St. Joan of Arc School.

Soon after he joined the Army, he fell in love with his soon-to-be wife, Heather, at a military boot camp in Fort Hood, Texas. The two married on April 19, 2005. They had been living in Texas before Rivadeneira was deployed.

Rivadeneira’s aunt, Rubiella Ruiz, remembered him as a well-mannered boy who loved making jokes. “He loved life,” she said. “He was afraid to die.”

Ruiz said her nephew was thinking of starting college, when he returned from Iraq. He also expected to spend the holidays with his family in Jackson Heights.

“We are against the war,” said Ruiz. “And he was. He was doing his duty against his conscience.”

Rivadeneira’s mother had joined a recently formed support group for friends and family of active, deceased and missing military soldiers. The group was formed by Maria Duran. Her sister, Griselda, remembered Clark’s generosity to their family after they had heard Jimenez was missing.

Griselda recalled Clark bringing a large bouquet of flowers over to the grieving family and expressed her sympathy for Clark and her family. She said Clark had always worried about her son. “She raised him a special boy.”

Clark expressed her gratitude to everyone at the vigil and noted that she had often felt alone in New York. But on Tuesday, she said she felt warmth and unity.

The grieving mother has confidence that her son is not worried about her because she is no longer alone, but part of a bigger family and a bigger cause.

Rivadeneira, an Army health care specialist, had received a number of awards for his four years of military service. He was awarded the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.

Funeral arrangements are still pending. Rivadeneira will be buried in New York.

From the Queens Chronicle

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