TOMS RIVER, NJ – Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) 3rd Class Denis Christian Miranda, 24, was laid to rest at Ocean County Memorial Park Cemetery in Toms River, N.J. following a military funeral Sept. 30.
Miranda was one of nine military personnel killed when the helicopter in which they were traveling crashed in Zabul Province in Southern Afghanistan Sept. 21.
Miranda’s body was flown from Afghanistan to Dover Air Force Base, Del., during a dignified transfer. On Monday, his family and friends received his remains at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
As Miranda began the final leg of his journey to his hometown of Toms River, more than 400 service members from the Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marine Corps lined the streets of the base to render salutes to him and pay respect to his family and friends as the procession passed by.
Beginning Tuesday family, friends, service members and an outpouring of local residents gathered at the Anderson and Family Funeral home to grieve the loss of the young man. Local and national organizations presented small mementos and offered support to family during the wake.
Among those who offered support was Judy Tapper, president of the Department of New Jersey Gold Star Mothers, an organization and support group made up of mothers of fallen service members. Tapper presented a gold pin from the group to Miranda’s mother.
“After the loss of my son, it has always been important for me to help mothers in any way that I can,” said Tapper. “What ever the Miranda family needs, we will get them.”
Tapper’s son, Photographer’s Mate 1st Class (SEAL) David M. Tapper, died from wounds received during combat operations Aug. 20, 2003 in Afghanistan.
Miranda was carried in by his SEAL teammates to the cemetery where he received a military funeral. Miranda’s best friend, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (FMF) Eugene A. Lewis III, made remarks about the special friendship he and Miranda shared.
“Denis achieved his dreams,” Lewis said. “He set out to become a Navy SEAL and fulfilled that dream. He lived life to the fullest. I consider myself lucky to have known him.”
Capt. Tim Szymanski, commodore of Naval Special Warfare Group Two, solemnly spoke about the warrior spirit of Navy SEALs and Miranda’s ultimate sacrifice for his country.
“Miranda was a man who touched the lives of so many of us, a man who willingly made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the freedom and liberty of his fellow citizens, and a man who lived his life for the cause greater than himself,” Szymanski said.
After the commodore’s remarks, the American flag that draped Miranda’s casket was folded and presented to Miranda’s mother. A Navy honor guard rendered a gun salute and guests bowed their heads through the playing of “Taps.”
After the flag presentation, Navy SEALs from across the country lined up and one-by-one, removed the Tridents from the left chest of their uniforms and pounded them into Miranda’s coffin.
Miranda’s two brothers Alan and Kevin shared stories of their brother and spoke of his selfless, humble character.
“My brother could have been the most charitable man in the world, but if you didn’t catch him in the act, you wouldn’t know,” said Alan. “He helped others and never spoke of his acts. That’s just the type of guy he was humble.”
“He wanted to help as many people as he could with things he was knowledgeable in,” said Kevin. “He would do anything for anyone in need.”
Miranda’s fiance, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Lacy Cromwell, grieved his loss as well. When asked what he meant to her, Cromwell simply said, “He was the love of my life.” Miranda’s last words to her before he deployed were, “You know I’m going to marry you right?” She responded, “I know.”
Miranda is survived by his mother, father, Christian, and two brothers.