The Hispanic Heritage Club of Hinesville and Fort Stewart held a memorial service for the nine Puerto Rican National Guard airmen who died in an airplane crash May 2.
Fort Stewart Garrison Commander Col. Jason Wolter, Command Sgt. Maj. Rebecca Myers, Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette, state Rep. Al Williams, several military dignitaries, local officials and community supporters bowed their heads down in prayer as HHC President Pablo Rodriguez read out the names of the men who died.
“Our thoughts go out to the families of the members of the Puerto Rican National Guard that tragically lost their lives serving our nation and the beautiful island of Puerto Rico,” Rodriguez said. “American fighting men and women sacrifice much to ensure that our great nation stays free. We owe a debt of gratitude to the soldiers that have paid the ultimate price for this cause as well as for those who are blessed to return from those battlefields unscathed.”
Rodriguez said he felt it was important to pay homage to the men to show that despite being on the mainland their roots and ties to Puerto Rico still run deep.
HHC was founded in 1991 by Angel Sanabria who said the memorial was about sending a message to all those who serve that are of Hispanic descent.
“We are here for them and to support them,” he said. “We are working to support the community and to teach our community about our Hispanic culture.
Sanabria said the support shown at the memorial reinforces his faith in his Puerto Rican heritage.
“We get knocked down but we always come together and get back up through our faith and sense of family and hope,” he said.
The nine airmen:
Maj. Jose Rafael Rosado, a pilot with 18 years of service who left behind two children and his wife expecting a third.
Maj. Carlos Perez Serra a navigator with 23 years of service who is mourned by his wife and three children. First Lt. David Albandoz who served for 16 years. The co-pilot left behind his wife and daughter.
Senior Master Sgt. Jan Paravisini, a mechanic with 23 years of service survived by his three children.
Master Sgt. Jean Audiffred who served 16 years and is survived by his wife and two sons.
Master Sgt. Mario Brana, a flight engineer with 17 years of service and is survived by his mother and daughter.
Master Sgt. Victor Colon, who served for 22 and left behind his wife and two daughters.
Master Sgt. Eric Circuns. A loadmaster with 31 years of service survived by his wife, son and step-daughters.
Senior Airman Roberto Espada, who served for three years and is survived by his grandmother.