November 6, 2016 –
FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico – Army Reserve Soldiers from the 301st Military Police Company, family and friends gathered at the Fort Buchanan Chapel for a Memorial Service in honor of Sgt. Anthony William Bakogiannis, on November 5.
The unit Memorial Service honored Bakogiannis who died, May 23, 2016. There was no dry eye in the chapel during the photo collage video. “It is not a sad day, although we lost a great human being, Anthony Bakogiannis, this is a day to celebrate,” said Staff Sgt. Gustavo Antonio Alcala, 301st Military Police Company. “We had the opportunity to be with him and share good moments with him. He inputted a lot of energy into the unit when he was around, and we are just hoping that we can keep that energy flowing among the Soldiers, among his peers.”
As during any Memorial Service for a Fallen Hero, an American flag was presented to his mother, Raquel Quinones Reyes and his brother Alex Bakogiannis. “I feel honored that his unit coordinated this memorial service,” said Quinones with tears in her eyes. “I know they loved him very much. He would always tell me how he had a lot of ‘brothers’ now.”
Quinones reminisced about her son, “He was always happy, and he would call me to tell me that he loved the family and me.”
As the unit continues to prepare for a future deployment, Alcala hopes to use Bakogiannis’ energy to keep the Soldiers motivated.
“He will missed. The way I see it, he is part of the unit now. He may not be here physically, but I know that a part of him is mentally and spiritually with us,” said Alcala. “We will use his positive attitude and energy he injected into each of the Soldiers around him, to fulfill the mission and achieve our goal.”
First Sgt. Osvaldo Morales, 301st MP Co. first sergeant, also remembers Bakogiannis as a highly motivated Soldier. “He was like the spark that lights the torch,” said Morales. “He was always very proactive, and a worker bee. I’ve known him for three years and he was always involved in everything, attended all events and was always present showing his support.”
Bakogiannis’ level of commitment and dedication to the unit will always be remembered by his fellow Soldiers. “I want our Soldiers to remember his commitment and follow his determination. As long as they remain focused and dedicated to completing the mission, they will be doing what Bakogiannis’ would have done,” continued Alcala. “We can use him as an example, I know the way his journey ended is not the best way to end, but that was the way that he chose. We might not agree with him, but it was his decision, so we respect it.”
During a previous deployment to Afghanistan, Alcala grew close to Bakogiannis. “He helped out with combatives and was my instructor so I got close to him and our friendship continued when we returned,” recalled Alcala. “Whenever we had issues, we talked about them. But nothing like the way it ended, it was unexpected from him. He had everything in his pocket to keep on going and keep on growing. He wanted to be an NCO, and he became an NCO before this happened.”
A feeling of disbelief fell over Alcala when he first learned the news. “I was at Unit Prevention Leader (UPL) training when I got the call,” said Alcala. “It took us by surprise because although he was trying to get the help he needed and help was being provided, nobody expected it to end like this. I feel very sorry for his family because they had a child full of energy and full of life. They are the ones that are questioning what has happened.”
“This has been very difficult for us, it is like losing a son,” said Morales. “Bakogiannis had four sponsors within the unit and I was one of them. We worked with him, he was recently promoted so it is still a mystery of why he chose this route. It has deploy impacted our unit but we will keep moving forward.”
Before the service, Morales reminded his Soldiers that Bakogiannis should be remembered as the great Soldier that he was. The day should be filled with joy and positive energy.
As the memorial service drew to a close, there was the Last Roll Call for Sgt. Anthony Bakogiannis. The Last Roll Call, led by Morales, was a simple yet poignant way for a unit to say a final farewell to one of its own.
RIP Sgt. Anthony William Bakogiannis March 14, 1989 – May 23, 2016