PEMBROKE PINES, FL, US
U.S. Marine Corps
LCPL, 3RD BN 6TH MAR, (RCT-7, I MEF FWD) 2D MAR DIV, CAMP LEJEUNE, NC
05/18/2010, HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
During a weekend set aside for remembering America’s fallen troops, Saturday was a time for fresh tears as the South Florida community buried a Marine who died in Afghanistan.
Lance Corporal Patrick Xavier Jr., 24, fell May 18 in the volatile Helmand Province of Afghanistan, shot during what a Marine spokesman described as a “hostile incident.” The 2003 Miramar High School graduate returned home to Pembroke Pines on Wednesday in a flag-draped coffin.
The Marines presented Xavier’s family on Saturday with his posthumous Purple Heart at a funeral Mass in Davie attended by about 200 family members, friends and veterans. A fleet of more than 25 Broward sheriff’s motorcycle deputies then escorted his body to the South Florida National Cemetery west of Lake Worth.
He is the first military member killed in action to have a burial service at the three-year-old cemetery. Xavier’s father, Patrick Xavier-Kemp, told those gathered at St. David Catholic Church that the pain of losing the eldest of his three sons is immeasurable.
“It is the ultimate grief, sadness, anger, uncontrolled emotions and nostalgia,” he said. He remembered his son as a strong man who “served with the best.”
“In our minds, we will keep memories that no one can steal,” Xavier-Kemp said.
Xavier’s fiancee, Amani Shaheed, read from a letter he sent her in April. Xavier wrote he had seen some intense action in Afghanistan and he understood that serving his country required sacrifice.
“You pay a great price when you join the military,” he wrote.
Xavier was born in Queens and moved to South Florida with his family in 1996. After graduating high school, he enrolled in Broward College. While at Broward College, he decided to join the Marines. A voracious reader, he planned on going to medical school one day.
Xavier was stationed in Camp Lejeune, N.C., assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force. He had left for Afghanistan in January.
Veterans from across South Florida came to pay their respects Saturday to Xavier. When six Marines carried out his coffin into the church, they were flanked by about 30 veterans, many with their own American flags.
“Being a Marine, we take care of our own,” said Glyn “Blue” Joy, a Vietnam veteran who is member of the Leathernecks motorcycle club. Joy said his club, composed of Marines, has traveled as far as Orlando to attend to attend funerals for their fallen comrades.
Xavier will share South Florida National Cemetery with more than 2,400 World War II veterans, 900 Korean War veterans, 900 Vietnam War veterans and about 60 veterans who served in the Gulf wars, said Raina Mehrten, the cemetery’s lead representative.