Local

‘Thank you for everything’: Sgt. Johanny Rosario’s former officer in charge pens tribute to Lawrence native killed in Kabul

“That’s who we lost. A proud Dominican-American. A daughter, sister, girlfriend, and auntie. A student and a teacher. A caretaker. A United States Marine.”

Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario in May 2021. Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla/U.S. Marines via AP

When Austin Carroll Keeley saw the names of the 13 American service members who were killed in an attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul last week, one name in particular left him heartbroken. 

Marine Sgt. Johanny Rosario

Marine Sgt. Johanny Rosario, 25, of Lawrence. 

She was screening women and children trying to flee the country at one of the airport’s gates, a task she volunteered for, when the suicide bombing occurred, according to The Boston Globe

“Her service was not only crucial to evacuating thousands of women and children, but epitomizes what it means to be a Marine: putting herself in danger for the protection of American values so that others might enjoy them,” Marine First Lt. John Coppola said of Rosario in a statement released to The New York Times.

Advertisement:

Keeley, a captain in the Marine Corps, serves as deputy director of the Recruiters School, Marine Corps Recruit Deport, in San Diego, and he took to both Twitter and Facebook to share more about the young woman who was killed in Afghanistan. 

“You may have seen her listed as Sergeant Johanny Rosario or Sergeant Johanny Rosario Pichardo, but I knew her as Sergeant Rosie, and I had the honor of serving as her Officer in Charge for 15 months before she headed to the Middle East,” he wrote. 

Keeley said he and “Rosie” bonded over their shared “ex-pat Masshole lineage.”

“She was fiercely proud of her heritage as a Dominican-American and wholly devoted to her mother, brothers, sister, and niece,” he wrote. “Her niece was the same age as my daughter, and on a weekly basis we’d compare pictures of how fat they were both getting. Rosie was so proud of her.”

Rosario was also a student, taking online classes at Columbia College during her enlistment, determined to set a good example for her siblings, he said. 

“Rosie was a teacher,” Keeley said. “When I first met her, then-Corporal Rosario managed a budget of $659,000 with little to no oversight. She taught me how the entire fiscal and supply system worked. It’s unusual to place that much trust and confidence in a Marine so junior, but Rosie was so good that we never doubted her. She received not one, but two medals during the 15-months we worked together for her exceptional performance.”

Advertisement:

In May, Rosario was commended by her unit, the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, for her work as supply chief, a task typically held by someone of higher rank. 

Bravo Zulu to the Task Force 51/5th MEB Gator of the Week, Sgt Rosario! 🐊Sgt Rosario is the Supply Chief, a billet…

Posted by Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade on Saturday, May 29, 2021

Keeley recalled how “heartwarming” it was to see the 25-year-old’s relationship with her boyfriend grow, despite sometimes being stationed half a world away from one another. 

“They made it work,” he wrote. “Rosie never went to prom, so before she left her boyfriend and best friend threw a 3-person prom night for her. She was glowing for days afterwards.”

In addition to her duties as a Marine, Rosario worked a second job part-time caring for elderly patients with dementia. 

Keeley said her attitude toward the hard work amazed him. 

“She loved sharing the stories they’d tell from their youth and felt both awe and gratitude for learning about history through their eyes,” he said. “It was a truly beautiful perspective on life.”

Rosario had her flaws, Keeley added. One of those was that she “ran slower than a tortoise through peanut butter.”

“Maybe it was because Rosie couldn’t run that she never ran away from her problems; she attacked them head on,” he wrote. “And that’s what probably brought her to the front of Abbey Gate at Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 26. Initial reports indicate she was a member of the Female Engagement Team screening women and children for evacuation to the United States. She helped over 30,000 reach safety before she was killed by a suicide bomber.”

Advertisement:

Before Rosario traveled to Afghanistan, Keeley said he got an email from her. 

She wrote that if she were to end her active service next year, she would feel accomplished and happy that she got “to do and experience the things [she] wanted.”

“To Rosie, service was a privilege,” Keeley wrote. “So that’s who we lost. A proud Dominican-American. A daughter, sister, girlfriend, and auntie. A student and a teacher. A caretaker. A United States Marine.”

“Sergeant Rosie, I’m so proud of the Marine you became,” he continued. “I’ll forever be inspired by the work you did, the lives you saved, and the sacrifice you made. Thank you for everything. Semper fidelis Marine.”

Last week, 13 American servicemembers died in action while processing Afghan men, women, and children for evacuation to…

Posted by Austin Keeley on Sunday, August 29, 2021
Jump To Comments

Conversation

This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com