“Parents should never bury their children,” said Monsignor David Cassato before a packed crowd on April 11 at the funeral of U.S. Marine Pfc. Miguel A. Marcial III at St. Athanasius Church in Brooklyn, N.Y. However, that is precisely what Marcial’s family came together with heavy hearts to do.
Marcial, a former Secaucus resident, was killed in Iraq on April 1 while serving his country. He was the 70th member of the armed forces with ties to New Jersey to die during the Iraq conflict. According to a Defense Department statement, the cause of his death is currently being investigated.
He was 19 years old.
Before he was laid to rest at a U.S. military cemetery in Long Island, Marcial’s life was honored with all of the formal dignity of a military funeral and remembered with the deep grief of a family experiencing loss.
Clergy and family offer hope
Cassato noted the meaning of the Marines’ Latin motto.
“Semper Fidelis means ‘always faithful,’ ” he said. “One of the most beautiful gifts that we have is the gift of our memory. We remember that he was truly always faithful in his love for his family, faithful to sharing with his friends, and faithful to his country when he served and gave his life. Today, we are mindful of his great fidelity in life. Today, we remember Miguel with love and devotion.”
That love was evident in the comments about Miguel from Jacqueline McKinney, who is the sister of Diana Cabrera, Miguel’s mother.
“We are grateful that God is watching over him now, as well as those in the armed services and our men in blue,” she said, a reference to a large New York City police department presence from the 62nd precinct, where Miguel’s father, Miguel Marcial, Jr., serves as a police officer.
McKinney spoke about Miguel’s popularity at Huber Street School, as well as at Secaucus High School. She also noted the presence at the funeral of Mike Kelly, Miguel’s teacher and mentor at the high school.
Looking out to Miguel’s brother Michael and sister Raquel, McKinney continued, “Miguel was a light of ours. Every time we saw him, all we could do was smile and laugh, he was so mischievous. Miguelito had a friendly, loving personality, and he had charm to spare. We are all very proud of him. That’s why we’ll miss not seeing him grow into a young man. We will never forget him: son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend. It was a privilege to know him.”
Another young man’s view, and a final goodbye
One young man who knew Miguel who came to pay his respects was Secaucus native Chris Calvanico. Calvanico, 18, is a 2006 Secaucus High School graduate. He is currently attending the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
Outside of the church, Calvanico was sobered by the day’s events.
“I’m here for my friend Miguel,” he said. “It’s a shame when any young Marine loses their life for their country, especially a friend.”
As a member of the military, Calvanico took a serious look ahead to what life in the service may hold for him.
“There’s definitely a reality check here,” he said. “When you’re in the Naval Academy, you’re in the military, but you’re semi-removed from what’s going on in Iraq. In a few years, I could possibly be leading young Marines like Miguel. This brings the point close to home. You have to be ready to deal with this.”
On the way to his final resting place, Cassato reminded the people in the crowded church that Miguel’s body arrived back in America on Holy Saturday, the day before Christians believe that Christ was resurrected from the dead. With that thought in mind, Cassato touched upon how all people feel when a loved one dies, particularly someone as young as Miguel.
“At moments like this, we are filled with tremendous regrets,” he said. “Don’t you wish you had one more time to say ‘Miguel, I love you?’ But today we believe in life. We believe that Miguel is at home. Welcome home, Miguel. May he rest in God’s peace.”
Mark J. Bonamo can be reached at email@example.com.