Funeral held Saturday for Louis Bonacasa, who died in Afghanistan attack

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Saturday, January 2, 2016
Funeral held for Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa, who died in Afghanistan
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Mallory Hoff has more from Coram.

CORAM, Long Island (WABC) -- Mourners packed a Long Island church to pay tribute to an Air National Guard member killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan.

Bagpipers led Saturday's funeral procession for Sgt. Louis Bonacasa at New Beginnings Christian Center in Coram.

Bonacasa,31, was one of six service members killed Dec. 21 when a suicide bomber rammed his motorcycle into their patrol near Bagram Air Base.

Members of the New York City Police Department and Patriot Guard Riders saluted as the hearse bearing Bonacasa arrived. Six pallbearers including Bonacasa's brother, Vincent, carried his flag-draped coffin.

The song "Proud to Be An American" played on loudspeakers outside the church during the procession.

Bonacasa leaves a wife of 11 years, Deborah, and a 5-year-old daughter, Lilianna.

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. The funeral started at 11 a.m. Saturday and ended close to 1 p.m. His burial was at Calverton National Cemetery.

VIDEO: Funeral procession for Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa:

Those who knew Bonacasa said he was aware of and accepted the risks of fighting because he believed in it more than anything else.

Hundreds of people filed into the funeral home for the wake Thursday and Friday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo also came to pay his respects. "Sergeant Bonacasa was a hero, and I hope the family takes comfort in that," Cuomo 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.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bonacasa leaves a wife of 11 years, Deborah, and a 5-year-old daughter, Lilianna.