Wake held for NYPD Officer Joseph Lemm, killed in Afghanistan

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Wake held for NYPD Officer Joseph Lemm, killed in Afghanistan
Marcus Solis has more details from West Harrison.

NEWBURGH, New York (WABC) -- Services were held Tuesday in honor of a New York Air National Guardsman and NYPD detective who was killed in Afghanistan.

A wake was held for Joseph Lemm on Tuesday at St. Anthony of Padua in his hometown of West Harrison.

Hundreds of Lemm's friends, family, and fellow officers filed into the church, led by Detective Lemm's widow Christine, his daughter, and his 4-year-old son on piggyback, marking another chapter in a painful goodbye.

Tuesday was an opportunity for those in his hometown of West Harrison to pay their respects to the cop and airman nicknamed "Superman".

NYPD officers in their dress blues lined up alongside military personnel outside the church.

Lemm's funeral will be held Wednesday morning at St. Patrick's Cathedral, followed by the burial in Hawthorne.

Lemm received a hero's welcome at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh Monday after his body was flown back to New York. The 45-year-old Westchester resident was a technical sergeant in the Air Guard's 105th Base Security Squadron and a 15-year veteran of the NYPD. He was killed last Monday when his patrol was attacked by a suicide bomber outside Bagram Air Base.

It has been a long journey home for Detective Lemm. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder was a big man, originally from Nebraska, who adopted West Harrison as his hometown, where flags fly at half staff. Now, a family, a community, a police department are all in mourning.

"He was just friendly," neighbor Lorraine Birdsall said. "He always said hello."

She knew the Lemm family for five years and spoke of the loss, the tragedy of losing her friend.

"Oh they're losing somebody very good, very good," she said. "He was so handsome."

Members of the New York Air National Guard's 105th Airlift Wing, the New York Police Department and Lemm's family gathered at the base for when his remains arrive aboard one of the air wing's C-17 aircraft.

Five other Americans also died in the Afghanistan attack, including Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa, of Long Island. The 31-year-old from Coram was also a member of the Stewart-based security unit.

The visitation for Bonacasa will be on Thursday afternoon at the Branch Funeral Home in Miller Place.

A second visitation will follow on Friday from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., before funeral services Saturday at 11 a.m. at the New Beginnings Christian Center in Coram. He will be at Calverton National Cemetery.