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Female Soldier Laid to Rest

By Eileen Buckley

Cheektowaga, NY – Another Western New York solider was laid to rest Monday. But this time the region said goodbye to its first female military member. A mass of Christian burial was held Monday at Saint Philip the Apostle Church in Cheektowaga for Army Sergeant Cari Anne Gasiewicz of Cheektowaga.

Two aerial fire trucks hoisted a huge American flag that waved in the silent, cold air in honor of the fallen military woman outside the Losson Road church.

Gasiewicz was killed December 4 when her convoy was attacked near Baghdad. A full military honor guard saluted her flagged draped coffin as it was carried into the church.

Her cousin, Captain Jennifer Farell, was part of the military escort. It was standing room only inside the church where more than 400-people attended.

Cari's aunt and godmother, Barbara Funk, delivered the eulogy.

"As I look at you wearing the flag of your country and burial shawl, you are as beautiful, precious and pure as the day you wore your christening gown," said Funk.

Pastor of St. Philip, Father Joseph Penkaul, said Cari was home for a visit this past August to celebrate her parents' anniversary.

He talked about her giving personality especially when it came to helping the church.

"No matter where Cari was she always found time to help others. Here at St. Philip our religious education students would write to Cari and she would always find time to write back," said Father Penkaul.

Gasiewicz spoke fluent Arabic and served as an interpreter with the Army's 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion.

Father Joe Bayne met Cari at St. Philip's church. He said she volunteered her services to fight in the war in Iraq.

"As so many of the men and woman serving our country, Cari volunteered. She had special training and served her country I believe she was there trying to help other people be free," said Father Bayne. "She would tell me about the Iraqi people she met and who of us can put a price on that."

Following the funeral Mass, Gasiewicz was buried with full military honors in Mount Calvary Cemetery in Cheektowaga.

"I just remember her vivaciousness, her smile, that's they way I'm going to remember her," said Father Bayne.

Gasiewicz was due to return home after the first of the year for a post-Christmas visit.