“Oh, Daddy, Daddy!” repeatedly lamented a 4-year-old boy as he cried at the wake of his father — an NYPD detective and Air National Guardsman who was among six U.S. military heroes recently killed in an Afghanistan suicide bombing claimed by a resurgent Taliban.
Technical Sgt. Joseph G. Lemm, 45, of the Bronx, a 15-year NYPD veteran, is survived in his adopted hometown of West Harrison, New York by his wife, Christine, a 17-year-old daughter, Brooke Lemm, and four-year-old son, Ryan Lemm.
The wake for Sgt. Lemm, who was on his second deployment to Afghanistan and had previously served a tour duty in Iraq, was held at the Anthony of Padua Church in Westchester County’s town of West Harrison, just north of New York City.
A slideshow of pictures from far happier times for the Lemm family were punctuated by the sound of Ryan’s cries as they ran on a large-flat screen television at the church, reports the New York Post.
“The child repeatedly kept going over to the casket, touching it and crying, until a man dressed in NYPD uniform picked the bawling boy, held him close to his chest and hugged and comforted him,” notes the report.
“Lemm’s widow, Christine and stepdaughter Brooke, stood near the casket shaking hands with visitors and embracing friends and other relatives,” it adds. “The church was filled with mourners, but the line outside kept growing.”
Sgt. Lemm received full police and military honors during his funeral at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan on Wednesday, which drew thousands of people and was described as “one of the larger funerals in recent memory” by funeral director Matthew Fiorillo, of Ballard-Durand Funeral & Cremation Services in White Plains.
The 4-year-old son, resting on the shoulders of a uniformed man, saluted as Sgt. Lemm’s coffin was carried into the cathedral Wednesday, reports Newsday.
When those in uniform were ordered to “present arms,” Ryan reportedly covered his ears.
“Law enforcement officers gathering near 46th Street between Fifth and Park avenues for the 10 a.m. funeral Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral represented agencies including the New Jersey State Police, Palisades Parkway police and Mamaroneck police. Military buses brought service members from various branches,” notes Newsday.
“People also gathered in front of Saks Fifth Avenue, Cole Haan, Banana Republic and Façonnable to watch as motorcycle units, led by the NYPD, and including officers from Suffolk and Nassau counties, rolled south on Fifth Avenue shortly after 10 a.m.,” it adds.
The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at Saint Patrick’s at 10 a.m. and was followed by a procession from the cathedral to the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne. Large contingents of police officers and U.S. service members participated in the procession.
Rev. Christopher Monturo, pastor of Lemm’s parish, Saint Anthony of Padua Church, gave the homily at Wednesday’s funeral mass.
“Streets surrounding Rockefeller Plaza were patrolled by canine units and bomb squads,” reports Newsday, later adding, “The NYPD held a moment of silence Tuesday at Madison Square Garden in Lemm’s honor at a graduation ceremony for nearly 1,200 new officers.”
A day earlier, hundreds of mourners stood in a line that snaked around the block before the 2 p.m. wake service began at the St. Anthony of Padua. They heard the sorrowful sound emanating from Sgt. Lemm’s son as they themselves paid tribute and respect to the fallen hero, proclaims The New York Post.
U.S. military personnel and members of the NYPD were among the first to enter Tuesday’s service at the Anthony of Padua Church.
“This is just then worst thing that could have happened to this family,” a Lemm family friend told the Post on condition of anonymity.
“He had the biggest heart. It’s beyond tragic that we lost Joe. I don’t think anyone has the words to describe what we’re all feeling. There’s just no words,” he added.
Lemm’s casket, which had huge multi-colored floral arrangements stacked alongside it, was draped with an American flag as tradition for deceased veterans dictates.
“The massive outpouring of support from civilians is not surprising. It resonates with them that this man patrolled there to protect what we hold sacred here,” reportedly said Michael Palladino, president of the NYPD detectives’ union, on Tuesday. “I imagine patrolling there is the closest thing to patrolling hell on earth and he did it three times”
The remains of Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa, 31, of Long Island, who was also killed in the attack near Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, will be returned Thursday in a ceremony at the F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard base in Westhampton Beach.
His funeral is scheduled for Saturday at New Beginnings Christian Center in Coram.
Both Lemm and Bonacasa were assigned to the Security Forces Squadron at Stewart Air National Guard Base in New York.
Also killed in the attack were: Maj. Adrianna M. Vorderbruggen, 36, of Plymouth, Minnesota; Staff Sgt. Michael A. Cinco, 28, of Mercedes, Texas; Staff Sgt. Peter W. Taub, 30, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Staff Sgt. Chester J. McBride, 30, of Statesboro, Georgia. All four were assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI).