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Ceremony Honors Guard Officer Killed in Iraq

Sept. 6, 2007 — Friends, family, fellow guardsmen, soldiers, airmen and Virgin Islands government officials filled the tent outside of the V.I. National Guard Joint Forces Headquarters in La Grande Princesse Thursday morning to pay tribute to fallen St. Croix soldier Lt. Col. David C. Canegata III.
Canegata and fellow guardsman Sgt. First Class Floyd E. Lake Sr. were killed in Iraq in January. They were among 13 military personnel on board a Black Hawk helicopter who died when it was struck by enemy fire and crashed.
“He died a hero,” said Shenneth Canegata, widow of the fallen soldier. “But he lived a hero as well. David never wasted a minute of his life. And he was smiling all the time. You know why? Because the Lord Jesus Christ was in his heart. I am happy to have served him as his wife and I am honored by your treatment. He lived well, and when he died I am certain he had fulfilled his life’s purpose.”
The conference room inside the National Guard headquarters was named for Canegata, with a hardwood plaque bearing his name above the entrance. A plaster relief bust of Canegata is on display in the conference room.
Outside, Adjutant General Renaldo Rivera and Col. Elton Lewis presented Mrs. Canegata with an American flag in a hardwood case, and several other small tokens of honor. The final item presented was a bronze relief bust of Canegata on a dark wood easel.
Mrs. Canegata said she was grateful for the honors being bestowed, but such things were not what she believed her husband strived for.
“My husband was a man of simple tastes,” she said. “He didn’t like a lot of fuss or elaborate birthday parties. For a good time, he liked to just go to the waterside and sit there with his family on the weekend.”
Canegata was born in Christiansted in 1956. The nicknamed “Tertius,” meaning “third” in Latin was given to him by his grandfather. But over time, he became known by friends and family alike as “Tersh.”
He attended St. Mary’s and then St. Josephs Catholic schools. In 1978, Canegata graduated from Carroll College in Wisconsin with a bachelor’s in history and a minor in business.
Along with Mrs. Canegata, he leaves behind their two children, Andre and Jessica, and two children from a previous marriage; Nicole and David-Mychal.
Before going to Iraq, Canegata served as deputy chief of staff for operations and plans with the Virgin Islands National Guard, a post he took on in 2005. He was the main advisor to the V.I. National Guard adjutant general regarding intelligence, security, operations, military support, training, aviation support, and anti-drug operations. He also served as a personal liaison between the adjutant general and other government agencies, locally and federally.
His military service began in 1985. He served in the enlisted ranks for a brief period as a Nuclear Biological Chemical Specialist where he earned the distinguished title of “Soldier of the Class” at his Advanced Individual Training at Fort McClellan, Alabama. In 1987, after completing Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga., and the Officer Basic Course at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md., he was commissioned an ordnance officer.
His National Guard resume was extensive. From 1989 to 1998 he participated in training deployments called to Grenada, Dominica, Trinidad, Belize and Puerto Rico. Canegata’s contributions to these annual exercises, and his humanitarian support following the aftermath of hurricanes Hugo, Marilyn and Georges earned him several awards.
In August, Sgt. Lake, who was killed serving alongside Canegata, was honored with a dedication ceremony renaming the U.S. Property and Fiscal Office Warehouse building located in Estate Bethlehem. (See "National Guard Will Name Building After Soldier Killed in Iraq.")
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