Feb. 1, 2007 — In a rousing and spiritual ceremony attended by more than 1,000 on St. Croix, the V.I. community paid final tribute Thursday to Lt. Col. David C. Canegata III, who died Jan. 20 in a helicopter crash outside Baghdad.
Friends, family and co-workers described Canegata as a man with a strong spiritual connection, a loving father, son and brother who was meticulous in all he did and never hesitated to tell others how special they were. During the ceremony, Canegata was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.
"My heart is broken because I wanted just a little more time [with him]", said Shenneth Benjamin Canegata during a special tribute to her husband. Canegata, who recently released her first gospel album, said she and her husband took comfort in their faith.
"That is what my husband was, he was a worshipper, and I promised I would do him proud," she said as her soulful voice filled the area.
The funeral was held at the Island Center for the Performing Arts, which could barely contain the throng of people who came to pay their last respects. The area was decked in patriotic red-white-and-blue bunting, with extra chairs and tents to shade attendees from the sun. The front section of the arena was reserved for the family and hundreds of military personnel in full dress uniform.
During her tribute, Shenneth sent a strong message to the community. "I am going to admonish you right now to quit dishonoring the men and women who sacrifice their lives so you can walk in freedom," she said. "You don't know why we are there [in the Middle East]. You don't understand our sacrifice, you don't know what it is like to wait for a phone call and you don't know what it is like to get that call."
Gov. John deJongh Jr. said Canegata was "a true and shining example" of a soldier and family man. "He is on his final journey," said deJongh, who by virtue of his office is commander in chief of the V.I. National Guard. He said although the death of Canegata is a challenge to bear, the challenge is also to look for the blessings.
"This is an amazing show of love," said Dianne Canegata Powell, sister of the deceased, as she addressed the mourners. "In the midst of this storm we are all experiencing an amazing peace." Powell described how her brother "chronicled his life" in a booklet he presented to his family at his 50th birthday celebration in September. "He knew what he was doing," she said.
She said her brother was destined to be a military man, always keeping his clothes neat and clean. "He even ironed his G.I. Joe uniforms," she joked.
Powell said her brother reassured the family when he was being deployed and asked for their support. "This is my passion, and if you keep me from going you will keep me from my destiny," she recalled him saying.
Several of Canegata's military comrades paid tribute to the fallen hero. Adj. Gen. Eddy Charles, Maj. Kenneth Alleyne, Lt. Col. Aubrey Ruan and Col. Timothy Lake were among those who recounted personal stories of their encounters with Canegata.
Canegata is survived by his wife; children Nicole, David Mychal, Andre and Jessica Canegata; grandson, David Mychal Jr.; father, David C. Canegata Jr.; mother, Carmen Canegata; sisters Dianne Canegata Powell, Terri Evans and Yvette Canegata-Jones and brother, John Canegata.
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