Connecticut will honor one of its young war heroes today. Funeral services for Air Force Staff Sgt. Todd “TJ” Lobraico will start at 11 a.m. at Western Connecticut State University.
Lobraico was on his second combat tour when he was wounded by small arms fire near Bagram Airfield; he died on Sept. 5, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Defense. He the first member of the New York Air National Guard to die in a combat zone since Sept. 11, 2001, according to the release.
Lobraico’s body arrived at The Stewart Air Force Base in New York on Wednesday and the 105th Airlift Wing honored him in a special ceremony at the base. A vigil was held on Sept. 11 in New Fairfield, which honored Lobraico as well as the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
“The recent passing of Staff Sgt. TJ Lobraico serves as a reminder to everyone that we should never forget the events of [Sept. 11],” said New Fairfield First Selectman Susan Chapman. “Our community has paid a high price for the events of that day, and I ask that we all never forget.”
A friend of Lobraico’s, John Pastore of New Fairfield, remembered him as a person who was always never turned down a request for help.
“He was one of those kids that never said no to anything. … He always was willing to do anything,” Pastore said.
“He helped those around him,” Pastore said. He remembered one time when he asked a dozen or so friends, including Lobraico, to help him move out of his apartment and Lobraico was the only one who showed up.
Friends at the vigil wore tuxedo T-shirts, a personal favorite of Lobraico’s, to honor their fallen friend, according to a friend who didn’t wish to have his name in the paper.
Lobraico, a 2008 graduate of New Fairfield High School, was assigned to the 105th Security Forces Squadron at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y.
Chaplain Eric Wishmar of the Connecticut Air Guard told those in attendance that his team fought much like the Army.
Lobraico was sent with a team to Afghanistan at the end of June. Lobraico also had served in Iraq from December 2010 to June 2011, according to the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs.
In remarks, Wishmar noted Lobraico’s many service awards and medals, including the Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon and the National Defense Service Medal.
“Sgt. Lobraico now joins the nearly 1 million other men and women who have died defending America since our nation’s founding,” Wishmar said. “His name will join the roll call faithfully shared by our veterans each year and those … who have laid down their life in service of our country.”
“This fine, young airman had already served in a combat zone once before and knew the risks he was facing,” Col. Timothy LaBarge, commander of the 105th Airlift Wing, said. “Despite that, he did his job professionally and with courage. He will be missed by all who served with him and knew him.”
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy ordered flags in Connecticut to half-staff in Lobraico’s honor.
“This loss reminds us of the dangers faced by our men and women stationed overseas,” Malloy said. “We should all be grateful for their service and sacrifices to our country.”
Lobraico was remembered by teachers as a kind young man who was involved in many charitable causes while at the high school.
“It was this compassion and sense of honor and duty that led him to proudly serve his country,” his former social studies teacher, Chris Welter, said. “Our community and our country have lost an amazing young man.”
“He will be remembered for his smile and support of school programs,” Superintendent of Schools Alicia Roy said. “We are proud of students who choose to join the military to defend the United States. We are deeply saddened when that commitment costs the ultimate sacrifice. We will always remember and be thankful for TJ’s dedication to our country.”
Lobraico comes from a military family. His father, Todd Lobraico, is an Air Force master sergeant who also serves with the 105th Security Forces Squadron, according to a news release from the New York state military affairs office. The senior Lobraico also is a Stamford police officer. The slain airman’s mother, Maj. Linda Rohatsch, commands the 105th Medical Group, the release said.
By Courant reporters Nicholas Rondinone and Jesse Leavenworth, with contributions from Fox CT’s Angelica Spanos