Bodies of two Guard members killed in Africa returned to families on Guam
The flag-draped caskets containing the bodies of two members of the Guam Army National Guard arrived on Guam early Saturday. The soldiers were killed in a vehicle accident while deployed to the Horn of Africa.
Family, friends, fellow Guard members and local officials gathered to quietly welcome Sgt. Gregory D. Fejeran and Sgt. Christopher Fernandez at A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport a little after 2 a.m.
Maj. Gen. Donald J. Goldhorn, adjutant general of the Guam National Guard, and Gov. Felix P. Camacho addressed the 150 in attendance. Air Force Capt. Eugene Theisen, the Catholic chaplain at Andersen Air Force Base, led a prayer service.
Following the ceremony, two police-escorted motorcade processions led family and friends to the Guam National Guard Readiness Center, where they were welcomed by members of the Guard and the Family Readiness Groups.
Fejeran and Fernandez were part of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry, the third unit from Guam to deploy to the Horn of Africa in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
On March 6, the two were part of an Army force protection team that was traveling between Dire Dawa and Addis Ababa when their government sport utility vehicle rolled over, according to a release from the Guam National Guard. A third soldier from Guam, Sgt. Robert Balajadia, was injured in the accident and remains under care at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.
Friday night, Joseph Fernandez remembered his son, Christopher, as enjoying sports, fishing, surfing and barbecuing at the beach with his friends.
“He was a friendly boy,” he said. “He didn’t cause any trouble for anybody.”
When Christopher left for Africa, his father told him to call home when he got there.
“I said, ‘Let me know that you reached that place, and take care of yourself,’ ” Fernandez said. “He said he liked his work and that he made a lot of friends there.”
Fernandez was the fifth of seven children. His younger sister, Stephanie, stayed in touch with him on a Guam My- Space-like Web site.
“He was really caring and fun to be with,” she said. “I could tell that he was close to the people he was with because [of their Web messages] and stuff.”
His mother, Marie Fernandez, said that the family had recently sent him a package with some of his favorite foods including M&Ms and Cocoa Pebbles. “He always liked to joke around,” she remembered.
Charlie Company deployed in February 2006 and is to return in May. The unit’s Delta Company is in Hawaii training to replace Charlie Company in the Horn of Africa.
Fejeran’s funeral is to be held Tuesday and Fernandez’s on Saturday. In the meantime, both families are holding evening rosary services at their homes, in keeping with Chamorro custom.