Fallen Marine Sergeant Johanny Rosario Pichardo will return home to Lawrence on Saturday, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks that spawned the conflict in Afghanistan that claimed her life as the United States ended the longest war in its history.
Rosario Pichardo was fatally wounded at the Kabul airport Aug. 26 when two suicide bombers detonated massive bombs. A total of 13 US service members were killed along with at least 170 Afghans in an area packed with people desperately trying to board US aircraft after the country fell under the control of the Taliban.
“She’s coming home on the date, the 20th anniversary of the date, that created the war that cost her life. I do find significance in that,” said Francisco Urena, former state veterans affairs commissioner who is assisting Rosario Pichardo’s family. “She could be and hopefully is the very last casualty from Afghanistan to come to Massachusetts. That’s wishful thinking...But hopefully that will lead to the policymakers to keep it that way.”
Rosario Pichardo and the other Marines killed in the Kabul airport attack will be awarded the Purple Heart. ”The 11 Marines killed-in-action while supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel will be awarded the Purple Heart,” Captain Andrew Wood, a Marine Corps spokesman, said in a statement.
Rosario Pichardo’s remains are scheduled to arrive at Logan International Airport around noon Saturday via private charter and will then be transferred to a hearse for the Farrah Funeral Home, whose owner recalled Wednesday that he also provided funeral services for Peter P. Hashem, a Tewksbury resident killed on 9/11 when Flight 11 was steered into the World Trade Center by terrorists.
“I knew him. He was a gentleman,” Louis Farrah recalled, adding that Hashem immigrated from Lebanon when that country was in the midst of a civil war. “He came here, he worked hard, and he did everything he was supposed to do...He was among the first to die on 9/11.”
Farrah added: “It’s just terribly ironic. I hope she’s the last person to die.”
Rosario Pichardo was 25 years old, a native of Puerto Ricoof Dominican descent, and a graduate of Lawrence High School, officials said.
Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito are expected to be at the airport on Saturday along with Rosario Pichardo’s relatives for the transfer of her flag-draped casket. The family traveled to Dover, Del., when Rosario Pichardo’s body was returned with the other service members killed in the blasts. President Biden was on hand.
According to Urena and officials, State and Lawrence police and possibly motorized veterans groups will escort the hearse north on Interstate 93 to Interstate 495, exiting the highway onto Route 114. The motorcade will stay on Route 114 until the procession reaches Farrah’s funeral home at 133 Lawrence St.
The death of Rosario Pichardo has already created another reality for the family. The Marine was not only a bedrock of emotional support for her mother and sisters, but also a key source of financial support by sharing her Marine salary with them, Urena said.
Her sister, Rosie Rosario, has launched a GoFundMe campaign that initially hoped to raise $20,000, but as of Wednesday had received $100,000 in donations. Urena said none of that money will be spent on funeral expenses as some initially believed.
“That money, specifically, is going to go to give a better quality of life to that family,” he said.
Some Marines who served with Rosario Pichardo, are expected to attend the upcoming services, Urena said. On Monday, Sept. 13, a Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 a.m. at St. Mary’s of the Assumption Church in Lawrence for the family and invited guests.
On Tuesday, from 11 a.m. to 2 pm a public wake will be held at the Lawrence Veterans Memorial Stadium. Public speakers will address those gathered from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. The wake will end with a liturgy of the word, a Catholic service. At 3 p.m., there will be a motorcade to Bellevue Cemetery for interment in the veterans’ section of the city-owned cemetery on May Street.
During the public wake, large posters with photographs of the 12 other service members will be on display, something the slain Marine’s mother insisted upon, officials said. The family is also exploring the idea of creating a memorial to all 13 service members near Rosario Pichardo’s final resting place.
“This was a specific request” by Rosario Pichardo’s mother, Colasa Pichardo, said Farrah. “She just feels a kinship to them, to their parents, their loved ones. And she knows they all died together trying to help people.”