Corporal Lee Roy Apatang Camacho was finally laid to rest yesterday afternoon with his three sons—Lee Roy, Jr., 8, Layton, 7, and Leven Joe, 3—offering their last salute to their hero, their role model, their father.
The three boys, dressed in black coats and black neckties, stood in front of their father’s brown casket, and in seconds offered their salute to their father before the military pallbearers brought Lee Roy to his grave at the CNMI Veterans Cemetery in Marpi.
Military Veterans Affairs Office director Ruth Coleman said the boys really practiced the salute, which their father had taught them when he was still alive. She said the salute was the interment’s most moving scene.
Hundreds of CNMI community members, including government officials led by Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and first lady Josie Fitial, graced the event. Washington Rep. Pete A. Tenorio, former Gov. Froilan Tenorio, and Sen. Luis Crisostimo also attended the memorial service.
At 2:57pm yesterday the funeral cortege reached the recently completed Veterans Cemetery escorted by Department of Public Safety police officers. Flowers and wreaths filled the memorial chapel for the fallen soldier.
Lee Roy’s wife Velma and mother proceeded to the chapel escorted by Sgt. Alfred Camacho, Lee Roy’s brother.
Seven soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve in Guam and the 9th Regional Readiness Command with Headquarters in Hawaii carried the casket to the chapel.
Coleman presided during the brief ceremony by introducing visiting U.S. Army Adjutant Douglas Goldhorn and the visiting soldiers. Rev. Fr. Nonoy Recaido led the Gospel reading, invocation, and blessing for Lee Roy.
The soldiers then hoisted the U.S. flag when the three U.S. Army men fired gunshots for the 21-gun salute. The event became more solemn when taps was sounded.
Goldhorn presented two U.S. flags to Lee Roy’s wife and mother. He knelt down and extended his appreciation to Lee Roy’s bravery.
Gov. Fitial followed with the presentation of the NMI flag to Velma and Lee Roy’s mother. “For your son’s service and sacrifice for his country. For his legacy as a great American soldier to the CNMI,” he said to Lee Roy’s grieving family.
Gov. Fitial earlier said he is saddened by the death of Lee Roy, which happened not long after the fourth NMI combat fatality in Iraq, Lance Adam Quitugua Emul, was killed in action.
“I hope that the federal government is looking at the sacrifices that our boys are committing to fight for freedom and democracy [in Iraq],” he added. Gov. Fitial said the CNMI is part of the U.S. political family as it upholds and supports democracy and freedom. “We will continue to support the U.S.,” he said.
At 3:28pm Lee Roy was brought to his final resting place after his three sons last salute escorted by Goldhorn. Velma held her youngest son, L.J., as she watched the funeral service crew haul the casket down to the ground. She suddenly broke into tears when finally the casket was completely placed into the ground.
Before Lee Roy’s interment at the Veterans Cemetery, local officials and lawmakers gathered at the Mt. Carmel Cathedral to present plaques and certificates to the fallen soldier. Fitial also led the presentation of the plaques and certificates.
At least three life-size paintings and portraits of Lee Roy were displayed inside the church. Hundreds of community members also paid their last respect to the fallen soldier whose casket was closed during the entire funeral service.
Coleman said the casket was close from its arrival until its internment. “It’s tragic,” said Coleman, adding that the cause of the accident has not been disclosed even to the family.
Last Friday afternoon, Lee Roy’s remains was flown by a U.S. Air Force KC-135 escorted by crewmembers from 319 Air Refueling wing in Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota.