Before Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar shipped out to Afghanistan in February, he planned a family homecoming for his scheduled return in May.
There was to be a birthday party for his 13-year-old daughter. Then his 17-year-old daughter’s high school graduation, followed by the family’s first visit to Disneyland.
“Mark always planned a super family event when he came back,” his wife, Natasha, recalled. “And we were there every time to hug him and welcome him home.”
On Wednesday, six days before her husband was supposed to return home, his wife and five children gathered instead for his funeral. A caisson pulled by white Percherons carried the fallen soldier’s coffin, draped with a flag, to his family, past the long, straight rows of marble headstones emblematic of Arlington National Cemetery.