NEWBURGH, N.Y. -- The state's Adjutant General and top officers from the 105th Airlift Wing at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Orange County offered their condolences and highest praise this week following the deaths Monday of Air National Guard members from Westchester County and Long Island.
"The New York National Guard family extends our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Tech. Sgt. Joseph Lemm and Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa, as well as the Airmen who served with them," Major General Patrick Murphy, the Adjutant General of New York, said in a press statement. "Both Airmen served with distinction."
"We will honor and remember their service, professionalism, and dedication to our state and nation," Murphy said.
Lemm, 45, was from West Harrison and worked as a detective for 15 years with the New York Police Department in the Bronx. He was serving his third overseas tour when a suicide bomber attacked his convoy in Afghanistan.
Bonacasa, 30, of Suffolk County was among the six American servicemen killed. Both Air National Guard members belonged to the 105th Base Defense Squadron which deployed members to Bagram Air Base in October. Four Air Force members died in the attack.
Members of the 105th's defense squadron provide security for air bases by conducting missions "outside the wire" and employ equipment and tactics similar to Army infantrymen, according to the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs.
Lemm enlisted in the 105th Airlift Wing in 2008, serving his entire time as a security force member. He previously served in the military from 1988 to 1996. His prior deployment experience included missions to Afghanistan from January to June 2013 and to Iraq from June to December 2011.
"Tech. Sgt. Joseph Lemm and Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa are true American heroes; citizen Airmen who repeatedly and without hesitation answered their nation's call in the finest traditions of the United States Air Force, the Air National Guard, the 105th Airlift Wing and the 105th Base Defense Squadron," said Col. Timothy LaBarge, commander of the 105th Airlift Wing.
"Leading a team of passionate defenders, they took on the most challenging mission for themselves and epitomized the concept of leading from the front, a concept that has distinct risks that they both acknowledged and embraced. Their example and sacrifice will never be forgotten as we do our part, on behalf of a grateful nation, to thank and memorialize them in perpetuity," Labarge said.
On Wednesday, Col. Howard Wagner, the 105th Airlift Wing's vice commander, held a news conference at Newburgh-Stewart Airport to discuss the tragedy and detail the squadron members' accomplishments.
Lemm and Bonecasa are the 34th and 35th members of the New York National Guard to die in combat since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.