A Saddened Corona Receives Its Soldier, Home From Iraq

A Saddened Corona Receives Its Soldier, Home From Iraq
August 1st, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: A Saddened Corona Receives Its Soldier, Home From Iraq

A Saddened Corona Receives Its Soldier, Home From Iraq
New York Times
August 1, 2008
Pg. B3
By Javier C. Hernandez
For 14 months, they waited for him. They hung the midnight-black missing-in-action banner at his home in Queens, offsetting its grimness with the bright hues of the Dominican and American flags. They dreaded another knock at the door from soldiers in uniform, but as the months dragged on, some came to crave closure most of all.
On Thursday, he came back. The police cars with flashing lights guided Sgt. Alex R. Jimenez’s coffin past the laundry, the travel agency and the minimart to 104-35 37th Drive in Corona. The procession paused in front of the bouquet of yellow and white flowers.
“You’re home, you’re home,” his friends and relatives cried as they surrounded the car holding his coffin, holding each other up for support.
It had been more than a year since Sergeant Jimenez, 25, was reported missing after an ambush on his two-Humvee convoy in an area south of Baghdad known as the triangle of death. He was one of three members of the same Army unit — Company D, Fourth Battalion, 31st Infantry, Second Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum in upstate New York — captured in the attack. Four Americans in the same unit and one Iraqi interpreter were killed.
Since that day — May 12, 2007 — his family and friends kept hoping that he would someday walk down the street again and fill the house with his usual jokes and laughter. Soon after the attack, the soldiers had come to their door to tell them that he had been captured. Last month, they were notified that his remains had been found near an Iraqi village and identified.
The procession began Thursday at Hinton Park, near Shea Stadium. About 70 family members and friends had gathered there, dressed in black T-shirts bearing his image. When the motorcade carrying his remains appeared at 1 p.m., shrieks of sorrow erupted. His closest family members, including his mother, father and widow, stayed inside the cars.
On the street, his aunts crowded around the car, pressing their hands against the windows as it slowed. “My beautiful child,” one of them cried repeatedly in Spanish. “No, no, no!”
The mourners marched alongside the hearse the few blocks to the Rivera Funeral Home, stopping at the family home on 37th Drive along the way. (Last week, a funeral Mass was said in Lawrence, Mass., where Sergeant Jimenez’s father lives. After a public viewing, he will be buried on Long Island on Saturday.)
The funeral home is across the street from Our Lady of Sorrows Church, where Sergeant Jimenez was baptized. A color guard took his flag-draped coffin inside.
Outside the church, Specialist Shaun Gopaul, 29, spoke of the man he had considered a brother since the day they met five years ago. Specialist Gopaul was about a third of a mile away when the ambush occurred. He said he tries not to think about it.
Instead, he remembers the days that his best friend would teach him how to dance to bachata and reggaetón music, and the time they spent writing music together.
“I’ll never forget him,” Specialist Gopaul said. “He’s in my heart.”
A cousin of Sergeant Jimenez, Johan Duran, 31, remembered the time they spent playing in the backyard of the house on 37th Drive after the family moved to New York from the Dominican Republic. He remembered his cousin’s bursting-at-the-seams sense of humor.
“Out of any bad situations, he would always make you laugh,” he said. “He was always cracking jokes.”
When Mr. Duran got the call with news of his cousin’s death, he said he felt as if he had been punched in the stomach.
“You know the odds are against you, but you want to believe,” he said. “We’re happy we have some kind of closure.”
Sergeant Jimenez’s wife of four years, Yaderlin, dressed in black, recalled the year and two months in suspense. “We lost everything,” she said in Spanish. “But we had faith in God.”
She remembered her husband’s infectious happiness and said he died fighting for what he believed in.
“If he were here,” she said, “he would also have felt the same way we feel — proud to see how the whole world, the whole town, everyone in the United States has supported him and remember him as the hero that he was.”
As mourners filed out of the funeral home, their eyes fixed on a gold-framed, black-and-white portrait of Sergeant Jimenez outside. They walked down 104th Street, making their way back to the yellow house on 37th Drive.
They gathered by the gate, the flags flapping above them in the breeze, and cried once more.

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