|Ssgt. Jerry Bonifacio, Jr.
Born May 13, 1977 - Oct. 10, 2005
Killed in Iraq Oct. 10, 2005 by a car bomb. This was his 3rd tour of duty, 3 months left.
When they came for my neighbor on the right, I didn't say anything, I never spoke up.
When they came for my neighbor across the street, I turned my head pretending not to see.
When they came for my neighbor behind me, I turned up the radio and pretended not to hear.
When they came for my neighbor on the left, I closed my eyes and thanked God it was not me.
When they finally came for me, There wasn't anyone to say anything or pretend not to see.
Jerry Jr. didn't turn his head and pretend not see, he stood up and gave his life, for you and me.
Dedicated to my beloved nephew, Jerry Jr. 2005
By: Jason Massad (photo by Rick Roach)
It was a day of mourning in Vacaville Friday for family, friends and comrades of Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Jerry L. Bonifacio, a 28-year-old soldier who died nearly two weeks ago in war-torn Iraq.
Hundreds filed one-by-one into St. Mary's Church behind Bonifacio's flag-draped coffin and amid the lonely skirling of bagpipes.
They heard the young man eulogized as a steadfast friend, with a generous heart and an unbreakable spirit that helped him grow into a "quiet professional" soldier, an infantry squad leader and a patriot.
His military service ended in the "ultimate sacrifice" for his nation, family and, also, friends, said Rev. Micheal McFadden, who led the ceremony.
"Jerry Lee has honored us all by his giving his life," he said. "And for that we must be grateful."
If it were indeed true that a man's life can be judged by how many people attend his funeral, Bonifacio lived a rich one in Vacaville's tight-knit community.
More than 200 people attended the church service, some quietly sobbing, others sharing hugs of comfort for those who became overwhelmed at saying a final goodbye to a beloved friend.
Bonifacio had been preparing to get married to his fiancee in the coming year and after his deployment to Iraq, a stint he would have finished in three months.
Friends described the 1995 Will C. Wood High School graduate as a guy whose inner strength was matched only by his enthusiasm for life, steadfast friendship and an easy smile.
D. J. Strickland, Frank Garcia and Justin Ruby, a group of buddies that Bonifacio grew up with in Vacaville, said he tried to instill his inner fire in others as well.
The four were all together only a month ago, having beers at Cheers in downtown Vacaville, when Bonifacio was on leave from his deployment in Iraq.
"He would hit your chin and tell you to perk up," Strickland said. "Everybody would be in a pissy mood and he'd come in and light the room up."
Bonifacio was a part of the National Guard's 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment based in Dublin.
While working for a Martinez refinery, he was called up in December for deployment to Iraq.
A car bomb explosion killed Bonifacio Oct. 10, while he was manning a checkpoint at the heavily fortified Green Zone, surrounded by a maze of barriers erected to protect American and Iraqi officials.
At the funeral service, Bonifacio was honored posthumously with the Bronze Star for his valor in the war zone and a Purple Heart for having been wounded on the battlefield. He was also awarded a California National Guard honor.
Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine, who attended the funeral, proclaimed Oct. 21 as Jerry Lee Bonifacio Jr. Memorial Day.
"Vacaville lost one of its own," Augustine said. "Sergeant Bonifacio was an American hero. We'll always be thankful for his very special life."
Family members said that Bonifacio hadn't talked much about his service in Iraq.
But an Internet blog written by an American officer in Iraq who knew Bonifacio, showed that he made the same impression on his fellow soldiers as he had on his friends. Passages of the account were read as part of the eulogy for Bonifacio.
"By all accounts he never lost that zeal for life that is so often stamped out by time and pressure. Where others withered, he blossomed, making joy where there was none to be found," wrote Danjel Bout, deputy commander of an infantry company.
Bonifacio even brought a small measure of joy to the burial services Friday at the Vacaville-Elmira Cemetery.
As a National Guard team lifted the flag from the coffin to fold and present to family members, the hundreds in attendance were shown Bonifacio's final wish - a coffin displaying the band KISS.
Bonifacio, who loved heavy metal music and comic books, had mentioned to his fiancee, Michelle Baptiste, that he wanted to be buried in such a coffin.
The news was forwarded to James Lubs, the funeral director, who drove to Los Angeles recently to retrieve the special coffin that was Bonafacio's last wish.
The best part, he said, the now off-the market casket was donated by GENE SIMMONS, the famed KISS band member.
Bonifacio is survived by his parents, Jerry and Anna and siblings, Esther and John.