Louis Bonacasa of Coram was months away from coming home for good when he was killed in Afghanistan four years ago.
Soon the Air Force staff sergeant's name will be home permanently, when a Yaphank bridge is named in his honor.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Friday he had signed legislation designating a section of Yaphank Avenue that crosses the Long Island Expressway the Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa Memorial Bridge. The overpass is about 12 miles from Selden's Newfield High School, from which Bonacasa graduated in 2002.
The honor came as a bittersweet gift to his family, who still mourn the poet and father of one who died four days before Christmas.
"It’s a small gesture compared to what my son did for this nation," his mother, Diana Bonacasa of Manorville, said. "He gave his life for the freedom of every single person in this nation.
“As a mother, I would like to have all of Suffolk County under his name. We are very grateful. My son deserved this because he was so, so proud of being an American."
Louis Bonacasa, 31, a member of the New York Air National Guard’s 105th Base Defense Squadron, was on his fourth tour and a mere four months from returning home when he was one of six American service members killed by a suicide attacker near Bagram Air Base on Dec. 21, 2015. He left behind his parents Diana and Vincent, his wife Deborah of Sound Beach, a daughter, Lilianna, now 9, a brother and twin sisters.
"Staff Sergeant Bonacasa was a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice, and we owe him and his family the greatest debt of gratitude," Cuomo said in a statement. "Naming this bridge in his honor is our tribute to his valor and his service to our nation."
Bonacasa, who previously served in Iraq, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, had been planning to return to Long Island and put down roots near his hometown, his family said. He and his wife were planning to go house-shopping when he returned home, and Bonacasa wanted to open a smoke shop.
His unit in Afghanistan was responsible for providing perimeter security at Bagram, the United States' largest military base in that country. He and five others were killed by a suicide bomber riding a motorcycle laden with explosives, authorities said at the time.
Among those killed with Bonacasa was Airman Joseph Lemm, 45, an NYPD detective on his third deployment.
Both houses of the State Legislature voted in June to name the overpass after Bonacasa. The bills were sponsored by Assemb. Joseph DeStefano (R-Medford) and state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).
"Dedicating this bridge in the name of [Staff Sgt.] Bonacasa is but one small way to honor the bravery, dedication, and sacrifice of this American hero," DeStefano said in a statement released by the governor's office.
LaValle said in a statement that Bonacasa "served his country honorably for thirteen years. This is an appropriate tribute recognizing the ultimate sacrifice made by this American hero."
Diana Bonacasa said she is helping her congregation, Axis Church in Medford, collect sunscreen, snacks and other items to send to troops overseas. It's one way she honors her son's memory, and copes with her grief.
“Anything I can give to the troops is like giving back to my son,” she said. “We’re all shattered. We carry a big burden every day. We miss him so much. All of us have a part that’s missing in us. We feel like we’re disabled.
“Everything that we do in his honor, it gives us an awesome feeling because we’re keeping his name alive.”