A second airman based with the U.S. Air National Guard in New York is among the six Americans killed in a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan Monday, authorities said Tuesday.
Louis Bonacasa, 30, who is from Coram and was stationed at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, died in Monday's attack along with NYPD detective Joseph Lemm, a 15-year veteran of the department who was also stationed at that base, family members and officials confirmed Tuesday.
Bonacasa and Lemm were on routine security patrol with their convoy around Bagram Airfield north of Kabul when a suicide bomber drove a motorcycle into the convoy and blew himself up, NBC News reported.
They and four other Americans in the convoy of U.S., NATO and Afghan forces were killed while two other Americans and an interpreter were wounded, according to NBC News.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Bonacasa and Lemm's 105th Base Defense Squadron had deployed to Bagram in October, and the two men were both on their last tours of duty, their relatives said.
"Leading a team of passionate defenders, they took on the most challenging mission for themselves and epitomized the concept of leading from the front, a concept that has distinct risks that they both acknowledged and embraced," said Col. Timothy Labarge, commander of the 105th Airlift Wing. "Their example and sacrifice will never be forgotten as we do our part, on behalf of a grateful nation, to thank and memorialize them in perpetuity."
Bonacasa's mother, Diana, said she remembers the day her son came to her and told her he wanted to be a soldier.
"He graduated high school in 2002, he was only 17, and he said, 'Mom, I want to join the Marines,'" Diana Bonacasa told NBC News. "I said, 'No, if you're going into the service you're going into the Air Force. I wanted him to go to college."
His mother said he enlisted right after graduation. Family said Louis Bonacasa completed four tours in hostile territory. Diana Bonacasa said her son learned after arriving home from one of his last tours that a friend who had replaced him had been killed. She said he wasn't the same after that, and believes that's why he volunteered for another tour -- the tour from which he would not come home.
"This time that he left, it felt different," Diana Bonacasa told NBC News. "All the other times we kissed and hugged but this time something felt like I wouldn't see him again. I cried for two weeks."
Louis Bonacasa is survived by his wife and 5-year-old daughter. He met his wife in bootcamp and married her at 19. She is also a veteran.
Lemm served in the Bronx warrant squad on the NYPD, and during his career on the force, he was also deployed three times, twice to Afghanistan and once to Iraq, Bratton said. He was promoted to NYPD detective in January of 2014.
Lemm lived in West Harrison in Westchester, where grieving neighbors and friends offered up bittersweet memories.
"He was a good man," said Fred Riguzzi, owner of Fred's Barbershop where Lemm often stopped in for a haircut. "It's tough. It's tough."
Two years ago, Lemm returned from a tour in Afghanistan to surprise his wife Christine and two children, Brooke and Ryan, at a singing competition at Westchester Burger in Rye Brook.
Restaurant owner and family friend Vincent Corso recalled of the tearful reunion: "It was a very touching night. You had 200 people with tears in their eyes."
Corso said Lemm was in the restaurant two months ago, "happy because this was his last tour."
At Barino's Market in the Bronx, near the 50th Precinct stationhouse where Lemm was most recently working, the staff grew to know Lemm and would ship him care packages full of local specialties like cookies and candies, "things to remind them of home," said Michael Barrett.
"It's heartbreaking," said Barrett. "He was a class-A good guy."
"He protected us here, protected us abroad," he said. "There's nothing that guy didn't do for us."
"Detective Joseph Lemm epitomized the selflessness we can only strive for: putting his county and city first," Bratton said in a statement.
Lemm's children will receive a gift from a foundation that provides scholarship funds for the children of firefighters and police officers in the metropolitan area who are killed in the line of duty, NBC 4 has learned. Though Lemm was on leave from the NYPD and deployed as a member of the National Guard, the board of the Silver Shield Foundation has decided to set aside funds for his two children to honor his service to his country and his city.
Gov. Cuomo released a statement Tuesday morning saying those who died will be "greatly missed."
"Staff Sgt. Joe Lemm was committed to his fellow Americans, and embodied the selflessness and bravery of the U.S. Armed Forces and the NYPD. I join all New Yorkers in mourning his loss, as well as the loss of the other victims of this horrific attack," he said in the statement.
Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino called Lemm "a true-grit all-American hero who fought for his country during three tours of duty, served his community as a police officer, and was a loving husband and father. Westchester is on bended knee in sadness over the death of one of our own and the grief that it brings the Lemm family."
Lemm and Bonecasa are the 34th and 35th members of the New York National Guard to die in combat since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. They are the second and third members of the New York Air National Guard to die in combat.
The first New York Air National Guard Airman to die in combat was Staff Sgt. Todd J. Lobraico Jr., who was killed while operating in the vicinity of Bagram Air Base on Sept. 3, 2013. Like Lemm and Bonecasa, he was a member of the 105th Base Defense Squadron.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, 12 members of the New York Army and Air National Guard have died while deployed in Afghanistan.