LAWRENCE (CBS) – A final salute to a fallen Marine took place in Lawrence on Tuesday. A public wake for Sergeant Johanny Rosario Pichardo was held at Lawrence Veterans Memorial Stadium, across the street from the high school where she graduated.
Her casket was covered by the American flag as it was carried into the stadium by her fellow U.S. Marines. Along the track, pictures were posted of all 13 service members killed in the attack in Afghanistan on August 26. The Rosario Pichardo family stopped and saluted or made the sign of the cross at each one as they entered the stadium.
The public was invited to line up to walk past the casket on the field before a memorial service.
Sixty Marines from Rosario Pichardo’s unit in Bahrain flew home by a private charter in order to attend.
Gov. Charlie Baker was the first to speak. He shared a store that a local priest had told him about Rosario Pichardo volunteering at the food pantry as a teen. “She was so committed to becoming a Marine, that that’s what they called her. They called her Marine. And they were so excited for her when she had a chance to fulfill that lifelong ambition,” he said.
“As a Marine, as an auntie, as a social worker, as a servant, over and over again, her life exemplified what it means to be truly heroic,” said Baker.
“We will always be indebted to her service and sacrifice and we need to always remember her name,” said Lawrence Mayor Kendrys Vasquez before saying “Johanny Rosario Pichardo” with the crowd three times.
Sgt. Rosario Pichardo’s Commander Captain Pascal Demeo spoke about Rosario Pichardo’s professionalism and leadership. “I mentioned before that Rosario wanted to help women and children and that’s what she did,” Demeo said. “Everything she did in Afghanistan contributes to saving 124,000 lives. The term hero is used too often to describe service members. You’re not a hero just because you served. I’m no hero. Sgt. Rosario was a hero.”
“Late in the afternoon, there was a group of Marines and soldiers attempting to push back the mob from overrunning the gates. They had riot shields to keep back the mob, people were trying to flee for their lives. In between that mob, there were two women, two Afghan women being crushed, they were helpless,” Demeo continued. Rosario Pichardo went to go help them, he said. “Her final words: they need me, sir.”
State Rep. Steven Xiarhos shared a moment and hugged Rosario Pichardo’s mother. He also lost a child in Afghanistan.
“I kept thinking of Nicholas and then Johanny. Initially, when I spoke to her, the Marine was interpreting, and then he didn’t have to have to,” Xiarhos said.
The memorial was followed by a procession to Bellevue Cemetery where Sgt. Rosario Pichardo was laid to rest in a public ceremony.
Rosario Pichardo, 25, was a Marine for eight years. She was one of 13 U.S. troops killed August 26 in the suicide bomber attack during the evacuation mission at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan. She was screening women and girls at the time. She was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart last week. It was presented to her family Tuesday morning.
A private funeral Mass was held at St. Mary’s Church Monday.