An airman, killed in Afghanistan last week, will be laid to rest today. A funeral service is being held at Western Connecticut State University's West Side campus for Staff Sgt. Todd J. Lobraico Jr., known to his family and friends as TJ.
(Photo Courtesy: Melissa Meikle)
Among those at the funeral was Governor Dannel Malloy, the former Mayor of Stamford where the elder Todd Lobraico serves on the police force.
"I know his dad and this is just an unbelievable tragedy. 22-years old, a wonderful young man who had a great life ahead of him to be stricken down in the service of his country. On the other hand we should be inspired by his leadership and his committment to our freedom, our liberty and our democracy fighting the global war on terrorism. It's inspirational at the same that it's unbelievably crushing."
In addition to a police escort, the patriot guard riders were in Danbury for the motorcade. The organization attends funerals of members of the armed forces and also greets troops returning from overseas at homecoming celebrations.
(Photo Courtesy: Melissa Meikle)
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal also attended the funeral and said he's seen grief, respect and admiration for Lobraico and his sacrifice.
"[Lobraico was] a hero and a patriot but also a warm and loving person who relished in life, friends and family. His loss has really hit home for the community and really the entire state of Connecticut."
Lobraico attended Western before being deployed. He was in the Justice and Law Administration program, pursuing a degree in law enforcement. His mother graduated from the university and his father took classes there as well.
Justice and Law Administration Professor Dr Casey Jordan taught TJ and says there were thousands of people at the O'Neil Center to pay their respects. Jordan says she's had thousands of students and not all stand out, but he did.
"Not just because he was respectful, but he had a real energy about him that you looked at him and said 'that's a young man who's going to go places' or 'I would love to have him as my son', and when he smiled he literally lit up a room."
And he only missed class once.
"His family had to put down their family dog and he thought that was the most appropriate use of his time that day and I remember emailing him back and said yes that's where you need to be. He was conscientious about school and had a heart of a gold."
When she asked students on the first day of class what careers they would like to pursue with their degrees, Casey said TJ wrote down that he wanted to be a police office. She says his death is a loss to everyone, not just family, because he would have made an incredible police officer.
Danbury Police Chief Al Baker, whose son is an Air Force pilot currently stationed in Afghanistan, says it's reassuring as a parent knowing that there were people like T.J. who had his son's back while he is deployed. Baker says he shares the family's pain. He appreciated the outpouring of support on the motorcade from New York saying it shows a lot about the community.
The police motorcade escorting Lobraico made it's way from Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh to Sherman Wednesday. A memorial ceremony was held at the air base. Fire Departments in Westchester, Putnam and Fairfield Counties lined highway overpasses in tribute.
Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh is home to the Air National Guard's 105th Airlift Wing. Lobraico was a member of the 105th Security Forces Squadron. He died last Thursday after his unit was attacked near Bagram Airfield. He joined the Air National Guard in 2008 and was on his second overseas deployment.
His parents also serve in the 105th Airlift Wing.
There's been an outpouring of support for Lobraico's family on social media. Photos of the ceremony at Stewart Air Base were posted online as well.
((Photo by Alan Chaniewski))
Donations may be sent to SSgt. TJ Lobraico Jr. Scholarship Fund, c/o Wells Fargo, 1 Eagle Road, Danbury, CT 06810.