Written by Patch editor Mark Langlois.
TJ Lobraico Jr., of New Fairfield, a staff sergeant in the New York Air National Guard, was celebrated at his funeral Friday for the positive impact he had on his family, his fellow soldiers, his classmates and his friends.
Lobraico, 22, died in Afghanistan outside Bagram Airfield in an ambush he helped fellow soldiers avoid. A hearse carrying his body passed through the Brewster area on the way to his hometown Wednesday.
"He always wanted to learn and do better and do the best," said Brigadier General Allen J. Jamerson, director of security forces with the United States Air Force. Jamerson was speaking at Labraico's funeral Friday at Western Connecticut State University.
Jamerson said Lobraico's father was also in the service and his mother is a nurse, and that might have given him a nudge to succeed. "That's just a little pressure and momentum pushing him to do well."
"TJ saw action. He saw more action than I saw in 27 years in the service," Jamerson said.
Labraico was serving his second tour in Afghanistan. He had previously served from Dec. 2010 to June 2011. He died as a patrol he was leading outside of Bagram Airfield walked toward an ambush. Rev. John Revell, chaplain to the Stamford Police Department, said Labraico pushed a soldier and K9 to safety and alerted his squad to the ambush before he was shot.
"He knowingly and deliberately positioned himself between the enemy and his team," Revell said, "giving them time to take cover and return fire. It was TJ's actions that were undeniably the reason their lives were saved. He died a rich, meaningful, significant death for his buddies and his nation."
In addition to Chaplain Revell, Stamford was also represented at the funeral by numerous police officers. Todd Lobraico, TJ's father, is a master sergeant also serving with the 105th Security Forces Squadron. Todd Lobraico also is a Stamford police officer. TJ Lobraico's mother, Maj. Linda Rohatsch, commands the 105th Medical Group.
After Revell spoke, Lobraico's sister, Jessica Lobraico spoke about how TJ could make her so mad she's start throwing things, or he'd start throwing things, but he could just smile his way back into her good graces.
"I couldn't stay angry at him," she said, but that didn't stop bags of toilet paper or forks from flying between them. "I'm so incredibly honored and proud to have you as my brother."
Lobraico served with the New York Air National Guard 105th Security Forces Squadron at Steward Air National Guard base, Newburgh, NY. Stewart was represented by dozens of soldiers, and police departments throughout western Connecticut had officers on hand.