Six airmen killed in Romania laid to rest across country

‘Watch over us from your big white cloud,’ pregnant wife pleads.

By
August 1, 2010 02:35
4 minute read.
MOURNERS GATHER on Friday for the funeral of St.-Sgt. Oren Cohen who, along with five other servicem

Funeral 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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Daniella Lakri saluted her son, Nir, as she knelt by his flagdraped coffin, moments before his body was lowered into the ground at Haifa’s military cemetery on Friday afternoon.

She wore dark sunglasses and a black T-shirt. With her hands on the coffin, she said her final words to her only son. Nir had married his wife, Maggie, just last August, and she is fourmonths’ pregnant with his child.

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“Farewell, my sweet son,” she wept.

Then, as she pounded her hands on the coffin, she added, “I won’t disappoint you, I will be a wonderful grandmother. I will raise the daughter you left behind, just as I raised you. I thank you for her.”

Lt. Lakri was one of six airmen killed during a training flight Monday when their Yasour helicopter flew into a cloud and then crashed in the Carpathian Mountains in Romania. Their bodies were identified only late Thursday night and flown back to Israel on Friday morning.

Within hours after their arrival, friends and relatives shoveled dirt across their graves in six cemeteries across the country, from the South to the North.

Nir’s father, Yuval, said that in the past when he had watched televised shots of funerals for fallen soldiers, “I could not imagine how the bereaved family members could stand above the grave of their loved ones and part forever.

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“I never imagined that I would one day stand in such a painful situation in which I was eulogizing you,” said Yuval to his son, who would have turned 26 this Tuesday.

He recalled how Nir first flew on an IDF Hercules plane with his uncle when he was only two-weeks-old.

“Apparently, there was some king of a bacteria there which stuck to you. At age 26, you are ending your life on a Hercules plane on your last flight, this time in a coffin,” said Yuval.

Speaking of the crash that killed his son, he said, “I am sure that on that flight you didn’t have time to think of danger when you entered the cloud. From your perspective, you are still on that cloud.

“I am not burying you. I release you for another routine flight,” said Yuval.

Nir’s wife, Maggie, who at one point buried her face in her husband’s coffin to bid him farewell, also spoke to the thousands of mourners.

“I feel like I am in a bad movie that refuses to end. We are parting your way, through the sky, through the metal monster you loved so much.

“I promise you that I will heroically fulfill this last mission that you left me, to raise our Pitzie,” said Maggie.

She said she had gone for walk, “between the trees and the flowers, in the outdoors that you so loved.

“We will never part,” she added. ‘Watch over us from your big white cloud.’ In Rehovot, Ruby Cohen eulogized his older brother St.- Sgt. Oren Cohen, 24, who he had followed into the air force and whose virtues he believed were endless.

“You were bright, talented, charismatic, strong, a guide and a leader,” said Ruby.

He smiled as he spoke of his brother, even though at times he also paused to hold back tears.

“You always said that the Yasour was an evil beast that could withstand anything, but it could not withstand you,” said Ruby. He added that he missed his brother’s tough love, his critical views and cynicism.

“You were my best friend and my anchor. You were the brightest light in the sky, in our skies,” said Ruby.

“You were right about everything, the way is not easy. You were the best and you succeeded.

We are better because of you,” said Ruby.

He recalled how his brother had eulogized fallen soldiers on the Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers in the spring.

The family played a tape of Oren speaking that day.

“Remembering the fallen helps us cope. They paid the ultimate price so that we can continue to fight and say, ‘we are here and we are the best,’ and we will pay any price that is necessary for our families, our friends, our parents and for everyone,” said Oren in the tape.

In Modi’in, a friend of Lt.- Col. Avner Goldman, 48, said of the father of four, “you were a wonderful person, an admired officer and you excelled in everything. You knew how to lead. You know how to allow those under you to make mistakes and learn from them... You devoted yourself to your family and the air force while pursuing your own spiritual growth.

“But beyond everything you were a caring and empathic person.

You were a teacher and a friend. Thank you for the long talks and for the moments of laugher and happiness,” he said.

Lt.-Col. Daniel Shipenbauer, 43, a father of three, was buried in Gdarot. Maj. Yahel Keshet, 33, a father of two, was buried in Sharona military cemetery.

Maj. Lior Shai, 28, a father of one, was buried in Hod Hasharon.

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