SHERMAN, Conn. — On Saturday, volunteers in the National Wreaths Across America Day placed over a million Christmas wreaths and greenery on the graves of veterans across the nation.
And a group of volunteers took part locally at Sherman North Cemetery In Sherman in honor of U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Todd “TJ” Lobraico of Sherman, who was killed in combat four years ago in Afghanistan.
"We did our part and participated in National Wreaths Across America Day - 2017," said a post at the Facebook page for The TJ Lobraico Foundation. "We placed 72 wreaths on all the veterans laid to rest at Sherman North Cemetery, Sherman, Connecticut. Our 72 wreaths, although a small fraction of the 1.6 million wreaths placed today nationally, is our BIG part to Remember - Honor - Teach."
One of the wreaths was placed on Lobraico's grave. He was killed in action on Sept. 5, 2013, when his unit was ambushed by insurgents fire outside of Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
Each December on National Wreaths Across America Day, the group coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as over 1,200 additional locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea, and abroad.
Lobraico, 22, was killed in a "hellish barrage of rocket, grenade, and small arms fire" as he maneuvered against a Taliban ambush and bought time for the other members of his squad, the military said in posthumously awarding him the Bronze Star Medal with Valor.
"T.J. is our hero. He gave his life for us that dark night outside of Bagram Airfield," said Tech. Sgt. Michael Pacenza, Lobraico's squad leader.
"By all definitions, he was a true American hero. He saved his team; he saved a lot of lives that night. He sacrificed himself; put himself in harm's way, a selfless act," said Staff Sgt. Juan Ospina, who deployed with Lobraico on multiple occasions.
Lobraico, a Sherman resident, had deployed to Afghanistan in June 2013 as part of a mission to secure air bases, train, and fight much like Army infantry. This was his second deployment. He had also served in Iraq in 2010 to 2011.
He joined the 105th Base Defense Squadron at the Stewart Air National Guard Base in 2008.
The T.J. Lobraico Foundation was started by Lobraico's family and friends in his memory. It provides "educational scholarships or support to people and organizations who exemplify service before self," according to the Foundation's Facebook page .
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