Recently Ami Neiberger-Miller of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) invited StoryCorps Door-to-Door to come to Arlington National Cemetery to record stories with three families who lost loved ones during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sharon Capra came to remember her son, Tony Capra, who was killed by an improvised explosive device on April 9, 2008, in Iraq. Tony was the oldest of twelve siblings and always loved being the big brother. His father was in the military and traveled a lot, so Tony got to play the role of man of the house.
Sharon remembered when Tony was ten years old and her purse was stolen from a restaurant. “He immediately charged after the person who was running with my purse…so the owner of the restaurant ran out and chased him down and brought him back. You know, he just thought, ‘I just need to get back that purse,’ so off he ran. So many times, he surprised us by his actions.”
Tony was a brother and son, but also a husband and father. At the end of her interview, Sharon shared how she hopes his family will remember Tony:
I want his family to remember Tony with a smile. I mean, he was a character and he was a person that we can be proud to have known… It’s a responsibility that we have when we come into this earth to love each other and to help each other, and whatever level that you can do that, if it’s just through a smile or a handshake or to reach out, that it’s very important that life is more than just about you, and I think my son showed that through his life and through his death.
Tony Capra is buried in Section 60 of Arlington Cemetery, the burial ground dedicated to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. The day of our recordings was also the second anniversary of the death of Maria Ortiz. She was the first Army nurse to die in service since the Vietnam War. Her family, friends, and fellow servicemen and women, honored Maria with a memorial service at her grave. Maria’s fiance and twin sister spoke of her familial love and affection. Fellow nurses and soldiers who were with Maria when she died stood by and listened with heavy hearts as tears fell from these undoubtedly strong men and women.
It was an honor to attend Captain Ortiz’s memorial and to record stories remembering these brave soldiers who lost their lives.