MANORVILLE - While the nation marks Memorial Day weekend with parades and picnics, the holiday is a reminder of what one Manorville family has lost.
For Diana and Vincent Bonacasa, this is their first Memorial Day without their son, Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa. The 31-year-old Coram native was one of six American troops killed when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest as they were conducting a mission in Afghanistan last December. He was on his fourth tour of duty when he died.
"He just loved his country and he just felt that after 9/11, it just wasn't right and he wanted to defend his country," Vincent says. "I feel that you have to be a special person to do that."
"He was always helping others, that was in his heart to help others," adds Diana.
The only thing Louis loved more than his country was his family. His death left his wife, Deborah, without a husband, their 5-year-old daughter Lilly without a father and his parents without their firstborn child.
The Bonacasas have found comfort in being with others who understand their pain. Last month, Vincent and Diana attended a candlelight vigil in Washington, D.C. commemorating the recent deaths of 252 law enforcement officers and military personnel including their son.
Louis' name will be among those etched onto the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
"It was beautiful," Vincent says. "There was over 20,000 people there so we didn't feel alone."
The Bonacasas also found hope by honoring their son's sacrifice with acts of good will. They are opening a food pantry in Louis' name at a local church to help feed veterans in need.
"We will never forget his sacrifice, never," Diane says.