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Army Spc. Frances M. Vega Buried With Full Military Honors… Final Salute For A Soldier: Sgt. Joel Perez…Sgt. Francisco Martinez Killed In Iraq Buried

Army Spc. Frances M. Vega Buried With Full Military Honors

By Frank Griffiths of Associated Press

November 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

A female Puerto Rican soldier who died in the Chinook helicopter crash last week in Iraq was buried Sunday afternoon at a private ceremony, the U.S. military said.

Army Spc. Frances M. Vega, 20, was buried at the Puerto Rico National Cemetery in Bayamon with full military honors, Army spokesman Jose Pagan said.

Vega was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star for bravery and a Purple Heart, Pagan said.

"We feel overwhelmed by her loss but at the same time with pride that she was a soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice," he said.

Her body arrived from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Saturday night, Pagan said. The military did not officially notify the media because of the family's request for privacy, he said. Vega's relatives have not publicly addressed reporters.

She was born in San Francisco, California, but Army records had her permanent address listed as Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, the Pentagon said. Her father, a retired U.S. soldier, and other relatives live in Puerto Rico and her husband is an enlisted soldier.

Vega was assigned to the 151st Adjutant General Postal Detachment 3 at Fort Hood, Texas. She was killed in Fallujah, Iraq on Nov. 2 when a Chinook helicopter was shot down. Sixteen soldiers were killed and 21 injured in the attack.

Meanwhile, Army Sgt. Francisco Martinez's body was due to arrive in Puerto Rico on Monday for burial later in the week, Pagan said. Martinez, 28, of east-coast Humacao, was killed Tuesday by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

He was assigned to B Detachment, 82nd Soldier Support Battalion (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the Pentagon said. He is survived by his parents and four siblings.

Army Spc. Joel Perez, who also died in the Chinook crash, was scheduled to be buried Monday morning in Newark, New Jersey, Pagan said.

Perez, 25, a native of Puerto Rico, grew up in Newark. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, out of Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart posthumously.

Perez' survivors include his wife, Milagros Perez, and 18-month-old daughter, Jaileen, both of Newark, where his funeral will be held Monday at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

In four days last week, four Puerto Rican soldiers were killed by hostile fire in Iraq. Thirteen Puerto Rican soldiers have died since the start of the war in March.

They are among 388 U.S. service members who have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq.

Final Salute For A Soldier: Funeral for New Jersey Soldier Killed in Iraq


November 10, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

NEWARK, N.J. -- Eight days later and half a world away, a funeral service with military honors was held in Newark Monday for Sgt. Joel Perez, killed Nov. 2, when a U.S. Army helicopter was shot down in Iraq.

Some 150 family, friends, military comrades and other mourners attended a funeral Mass conducted in Spanish and English for the native of Puerto Rico, who was killed while heading home on leave.

"Porque estamos aqui?" asked Monsignor William J. Reilly. "Venimos aqui hoy, para expresar un acto de fe, estamos aqui por el amor."

He was asking, rhetorically, why they were there, and replying to his own question that they had come in an act of faith, that they were there out of love.

Before the hour-long service, the sergeant's flag-draped casket was carried by soldiers into the Cathedral Basilica of Sacred Heart past police and military honor guards.

Perez, 25, spent some of his school years in Newark before returning to his native Puerto Rico. His widow, Milagros Perez, 18-month-old daughter, Jaileen, and mother, Luisa M. Mangual, live in Newark.

The family issued a statement through an Army spokesman asking the media to respect their privacy and thanking the individuals and organizations that had offered "heartfelt sympathy and have donated services and other items to comfort us during this difficult time."

Perez was buried in Arlington Cemetery in Kearny.

On Friday, flags over state buildings flew at half-staff in his memory on order of Gov. James E. McGreevey.

Perez was assigned to the Army's 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment, out of Fort Sill, Okla. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart posthumously.

Perez was born in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. He attended Barringer High School in Newark and then graduated from high school in Puerto Rico. He enlisted in the Army in 1998, and was deployed to Iraq in May.

He also is survived by his by his father, Edwin Perez of Puerto Rico; and by his brothers, Elvin, Michael and Leo.

Perez is the eighth serviceman from New Jersey to die in Iraq, according to the governor's office.

U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg and Rep. Robert Menendez attended the service.

Menendez said it was his first funeral for a constituent killed in Iraq. He praised Perez as a soldier and as "an exceptional family man."

Questioned by reporters after the service, Menendez, a Democrat, used the opportunity to urge the Bush administration to cooperate with the international community in order to reduce the occupation's reliance on U.S. troops, and to restore Iraqi self-rule as soon as possible.

"We're very sad as a community," Menendez said of Perez's death. "The broader question is, is this a deployment that was necessary?"

Sgt. Francisco Martinez Killed In Iraq Buried

November 12, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - U.S. Army Sgt. Francisco Martinez, who died last week in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq, was buried Wednesday at the Puerto Rico National Cemetery in Bayamon.

Services lasted a half hour under heavy rain as family and military personnel paid their final respects to Martinez, one of 11 soldiers of Puerto Rican descent to die in Iraq since the war began.

A military escort accompanied the funeral procession, and parents and brother sat in the front row of the ceremony sobbing.

Army Chaplain Matthew Madison, of Fort Bragg, North Carolina read a eulogy for the 28-year-old soldier before Brig. Gen. Richard Rowe folded an American flag and handed it to Martinez's father, who wept as he received the flag.

Martinez was a member of the 82nd Soldier Support Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg.

Soldiers fired a 21-gun salute into the air and soldiers played Taps, then offered their condolences to the family, which is from east-coast Humacao.

Martinez was killed in Baghdad on Nov. 4. Two other soldiers were wounded in the attack.

On Monday, Spc. Frances M. Vega, one of 16 soldiers killed in the crash of a U.S. transport helicopter in Iraq on Nov. 2 and one of the few female soldiers killed in Iraq, was buried at the national cemetery.

In addition to the 11 killed in Iraq, two Puerto Ricans have died in military operations in Afghanistan.

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