Wake being held for Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa, who died in Afghanistan attack

Kristin Thorne Image
Thursday, December 31, 2015
Wake held for Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa
Kristin Thorne reporting live from Westhampton Beach

CORAM, Long Island (WABC) -- A wake was held Thursday for Staff Sergeant Louis Bonacasa, one of the six Americans killed last week in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan.

Friends and family gathered to mourn the death of the 31-year-old Coram resident, who was killed last Monday with five other airmen when his patrol was attacked by a suicide bomber outside Bagram Air Base.

Bonacasa's remains were returned to the United States in a ceremony at the F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard base in Westhampton Beach, followed by a wake 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 buried at Calverton National Cemetery.

"He was really a great man, a great provider and has a beautiful family," friend Jennifer Nyx said. "And it's just a great loss for everyone."

Those who knew Bonacasa say he was aware of and accepted the risks of fighting for our country because he believed in it more than anything else. His 5-year-old daughter Lilliana may not yet understand war, but she has learned far too early in her young life about death. Her mother, Bonacasa's wife Deborah, who he met at boot camp, was there with her to watch as the military honored Bonacasa at the air base ceremony.

"I've known him since he was a little boy," friend Joe Patti said. "I'm sad for all of us today."

Hundreds of people filed into the funeral home, trying to understand why someone so wonderful was taken away so soon.

"He didn't think twice about what he had to do," friend Billy MacDowall said. "You can see by the outpouring of love here that's evident."

Governor Andrew Cuomo also came to pay his respects.

"Sergeant Bonacasa was a hero, and I hope the family takes comfort in that," he said.

Sgt. Joseph Lemm, 45, a detective with the NYPD who was killed in the same attack, was laid to rest on Wednesday.

Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa:

Bonacasa had promised his family that his fourth tour would be his last. He enlisted in the active Air Force in 2002 and joined the New York Air National Guard in 2008. He joined the 105th Base Defense Squadron in 2010, and deployed to Afghanistan from January to June 2013, and to Iraq from June to December 2011.

Raquel Bonacasa, the serviceman's younger sister, spoke with her brother just two days before the bombing.

"He was excited about Christmas," she said. "He had received all of our packages, and he was excited that he was going to be coming back home and that his wife would be back home, and they could get a house and try for another baby...He didn't even think in his own mind that he was in any harm."

Bonacasa was married. His daughter, Liliana turned 5 just weeks ago. He was also the oldest of four siblings.

His death comes as Taliban fighters are mounting a resurgence in Afghanistan, placing greater demands on U.S. forces supporting the struggling Afghan military. Bonacasa's sisters knew that every tour carried risks, but they weren't prepared for this.

"He would always try to comfort all of us and anytime we would bring up something to him he would say, 'I'm OK, I'm going to come home, and this is why you are safe because I'm out here and you don't need to worry because I'm going to protect you guys,'" Bonacasa said.

Her brother is the first Long Island serviceman killed in Afghanistan or Iraq in more than three years.