Marine killed in Kabul given hero’s farewell in public wake

LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) — A Marine from Massachusetts who was killed last month in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan was given a hero’s farewell Tuesday in a public wake and burial attended by hundreds.

The flag-draped casket of Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo was carried by her fellow Marines into Veterans Memorial Stadium in her hometown of Lawrence while hundreds of people lined up to pay their respects.

The 25 year-old was among 13 U.S. service members who died in the Aug. 26 bombing at the Kabul airport, where people were being evacuated amid the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. A dozen other U.S. service members and 169 Afghans were also killed.

Rosario Pichardo’s family watched solemnly as the casket entered the stadium. Her mother, dressed in white, blew a kiss while other family members held their hands over their hearts and Marines in attendance saluted.

Gov. Charlie Baker related how fellow volunteers at a local church food pantry had nicknamed Rosario Pichardo “Marine” because of her lifelong ambition to become one.

“It’s often said a hero is someone who puts all others before themselves,” he said. “As a Marine, as an auntie, as a social worker, as a servant, over and over again, her life exemplified what it means to be truly heroic.”

Lawrence Mayor Kendrys Vasquez led the crowd in loudly chanting her name. “We will not forget you,” he said. “Thank you, Johanny. You are home now.”

Capt. Pascal DeMeo, Rosario Pichardo’s commanding officer, said the work screening women and children at the airport helped save some 124,000 lives in America’s largest airlift operation.

Before the bomb detonated, he said, Rosario Pichardo had been trying to help two Afghan women who were getting crushed by in a pack of people at the gates of the Kabul airport. Her final words were, “They need me, sir.”

Rosario Pichardo’s younger brother, Erick, remembered her as the backbone of their family. When their mom or other elders couldn’t do something that was needed, she somehow found a way, he said.

“Everything from here on out will be done for her,” Erick Rosario said. “We’re proud of her, and now it’s time to make her proud.”

Rosario Pichardo joined the Marines in 2015 and served with the Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

On Monday, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley presided over a private funeral Mass. After Tuesday’s wake, she was laid to rest at Bellevue Cemetery in Lawrence, in a section reserved for veterans.

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