Michael Anthony Arciola
Private First Class, United States Army
RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
Feb 18, 2005
Media Contact: Army Public Affairs - (703) 692-2000 Public/Industry Contact: (703)428-0711
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Private First Class Michael A. Arciola, 20, of Elmsford, New York, died February 15, 2005, in Al Ramadi, Iraq, from injuries sustained from enemy small arms fire. Arciola was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503d Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, Camp Casey, Korea.
For further information related to this release,
contact Army Public Affairs at (703) 692-2000.
ELMSFORD, New York — As grieving residents watched mutely, a gray hearse carrying the body of 20-year-old Army Private First Class Michael Arciola slowly made its way down Main Street to a funeral home yesterday evening.
Firefighters in formal uniform bore the flag-draped coffin into the McElroy-Flynn Funeral Home just after 6 p.m., bringing full circle a lifelong journey that began in Elmsford with Arciola's childhood dreams of joining the military and ended in western Iraq last week when he was felled by enemy gunfire.
Friends stood on both sides of the street, hugging each for comfort, as well as for warmth, in the stiff wintry wind.
As the procession passed through two rows of saluting firefighters into the home, only muffled sobs and the distant whirring of a news helicopter's rotors high above broke the somber silence of the scene.
"He shouldn't have come home this way," Joan Jones, a neighbor and longtime family friend, said as tears ran down her cheeks.
The sight of the casket was difficult to bear, some said. But they also said the solemn ceremony of the moment served to remind them that Arciola was killed in service to his country, a hero's death that deserves full honor.
"It's been the worst week of my life," said Frank Longo, 19, who grew up with Arciola in the same neighborhood. "It's really hard to watch. But it's a beautiful thing to see how this whole community came together."
"When I heard he died, part of me died, too," said Marques Younger, 19, another childhood friend. "It's really hard to take."
Teresa Arciola, Michael's mother, left the village yesterday morning with Mayor Robert Williams, a number of other village officials, an Army representative and a contingent of police and fire vehicles to drive to an Air Force base in Dover, Delaware, where her son's body arrived last Thursday.
The hearse followed the emergency vehicles all the way back to Elmsford, their lights flashing the entire journey, Williams said.
The first of three wake services will be held tonight at the funeral home from 7 to 9 p.m. Additional wakes are scheduled for tomorrow from 3 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.
Williams said the village would shut down the two center lanes of Main Street, or Route 119, for parking.
The funeral will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on East Main Street. The length of Main Street from Knollwood Road to Route 9A will be closed to traffic, said Williams, who added that he expects thousands to attend.
Next week, Arciola will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Wake: 7 to 9 tonight; 3 to 5 p.m., 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow at the McElroy-Flynn Funeral Home, 72 E. Main St., 914-592-6300.
Funeral: 11 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Mount
Carmel Church, 59 E. Main St., 914-592-7575.
Elmsford soldier buried at Arlington
By JOSEPH AX
Courtesy of the Journal News
March 19, 2005
Under a virtually cloudless sky, with row upon row of unadorned, white granite headstones casting shadows across Arlington National Cemetery, Army Private First Class Michael Arciola was laid to rest yesterday afternoon among a quarter-million other fallen soldiers.
As 100 mourners looked on, the honor guard solemnly folded the American flag that had draped the 20-year-old Elmsford resident's coffin and presented it, along with his Purple Heart and Bronze Star, to his mother, Teresa, who accepted it with tearful thanks.
"He deserved to be there," said Arciola's childhood friend and classmate Stephen Jones. "It's amazing to know that he's there — I guess you could say a comfort. He died a soldier. He died a hero."
"Michael's now with brave heroes of American history," said Kevin Budzynski, a family friend and Arciola's former baseball coach. "He's there with heroes big and small."
Arciola, who graduated from Alexander Hamilton High School in 2003, was killed by enemy gunfire on Feb. 15 in Ramadi in western Iraq, the fourth Westchester County soldier to die in Iraq or Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, based in South Korea.
The burial came on the first anniversary of the death of 26-year-old Army Staff Sgt. Anthony S. Lagman of Yonkers, who perished in a firefight with insurgents in Afghanistan.
Since Arciola's death, the small community of Elmsford has lauded the young man for his dedication to military service, his sunny disposition and his infectious sense of humor.
Dozens of friends and family members joined village officials, firefighters, police officers, teachers and other residents who made the 260-mile trek to Arlington, where almost 290,000 people, mostly veterans, are buried at the 624-acre cemetery.
"The thing that amazed me the most was how many people came down here just for Mikey," Jones said. "It just showed how much he meant to everybody."
The day began with a somber Catholic funeral service at the Old Post Chapel at Fort Myer on the edge of the cemetery. Inside the modest white church, grieving friends bowed their heads as Jesus Navarrete, an Army chaplain, asked God to watch over Arciola in heaven.
Robert Arciola spoke briefly and movingly about his younger brother.
"I could probably stand up here for hours telling you about him," he said, his voice quavering with emotion. "We all have our own memories, and we all have to be strong and let this make us better people. He loved everybody who's here in their own special way."
The easygoing Arciola, who friends say was immensely popular in the community, had spoken of joining the military since childhood, a desire that was only solidified after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The funeral procession, which included nearly 50 vehicles, wound its way from the chapel through the cemetery to Section 60, where Arciola was buried underneath headstone No. 8105.
Arciola is the 123rd soldier killed in Afghanistan or Iraq to be interred at Arlington. All but one soldier, who is buried near his father elsewhere in the cemetery, are buried side by side in Section 60.
The endless rows of headstones bespeak an enormous grief, Budzynski said, but they also serve as a reminder of honor and sacrifice.
"As sad as it is, they're heroes," he said. "Those are the Americans we need to honor."
Navarrete led another prayer at the grave, where the Arciolas — father Robert, mother Teresa, brother Robert and sisters Casey and Amanda — sat in silence in front of the gathering. A firing party standing at attention 200 feet away fired three volleys of shots into the air, and a bugler played taps as the echoes faded into the air.
After she received the flag and medals, Teresa Arciola stood and quietly kissed the top of the coffin.
After the service, the mourners waited in line to say their final goodbyes, some speaking softly with a hand on the casket while others bent and touched their lips to the coffin.
"The Arciola family should be proud of their
son Michael," said Elmsford Trustee William Zimkin, who attended the burial.
"And I am very proud of the Elmsford community, the way they supported
the Arciola family."
On February 15, 2005, Army Private First Class Michael Anthony Arciola, 20, of Elmsford, New York, was shot and killed by insurgents in Al Ramadi, Iraq.
Within hours of his death, the village of Elmsford -- one mile square and home to 4,600 residents -- went into mourning as news spread that it had lost a native son. The soldier's face was on the front page of local papers for several days running; the mayor, Robert Williams, paid a visit to the Arciola family.
When Arciola's body was returned to Dover Air Force Base, a procession of police and fire department cars brought him home to Elmsford. At his wake, firefighters served as an honor guard. Ladder trucks raised a U.S. flag across Main Street on the day of the memorial service, which was attended by nearly 1,000 people.
Those who couldn't fit into the main sanctuary at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church watched it on video from other parts of the building. Still more tuned in to the live broadcast on the cable channel.
Yesterday, more than 200 friends and loved ones gathered as Arciola, who was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. He was the 123rd member of the armed forces killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried at Arlington. During a Catholic service at Fort Myer Chapel, mourners wiped away tears as the Rev. Jesus Naverrete assured them that they would one day be reunited with Michael.
At the grave site, a gentle wind ruffled the edges of the flag draping Arciola's coffin as it was folded. Major General Keith Dayton presented the flag to Arciola's mother, Teresa. His father, Robert Arciola, received a second flag, which he held tightly to his chest.
After the service ended, Arciola's older brother Robert kissed the casket as he and sisters Casey and Amanda bid their final farewells.
Arciola lettered in varsity basketball, soccer and baseball at Alexander Hamilton High School and was recognized as an all-league player. He was captain of the baseball team his junior and senior years and continued to inspire the team, which included several freshmen, when its record sank to 0-21 his senior year.
"He told them to keep their heads up," said Kevin Budzynski, who coached Arciola in soccer and baseball and was also his history teacher. "He let them know when they did something wrong and praised them when they did something right."
Arciola led by example -- he was often the first player out of the locker room and into the weight room, his coach said. He played his best in any position, whether pitcher or catcher. He resolved tense situations with his razor-sharp humor or the deft use of a movie quotation. When a slower player was lapped by teammates, Arciola ran an extra lap just to keep him company, Budzynski recalled.
Arciola always wore jersey 13 -- regardless of the sport -- and according to his former coach, his old baseball team now closes out daily practice by huddling together and calling out, "Thirteen!"
Arciola enlisted in the Army while still in high school and left for boot camp just a few weeks after graduation. He spent about a year in Korea before being sent to Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division.
Mayor Williams, who has known the Arciola family since before Michael was born, said that even as a youngster, Arciola displayed the same qualities he would exhibit when he died.
"When he set his goals, he went after it,"
Williams said. "There were a lot of times he would get hurt on the field
and keep playing. He wanted to go into the service and serve his country,
and he did."
24 September 2005:
Robert Arciola wants to honor his son's sacrifice in Iraq closer to home — about 10 feet behind his Greenburgh house, to be exact.
Arciola is building a backyard monument to his youngest child, Michael, and other young men from Westchester County who were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2003.
Arciola wants to dedicate the monument — a bronze plaque with the names of those killed attached to a 4-foot-high rock — at a public ceremony on Veterans Day, November 11, 2005.
"I thought that was the best day," he said.
Michael Arciola was a machine-gunner assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, when he was killed by enemy gunfire Feb. 15 in Ramadi.
Michael Arciola was awarded the Bronze Star for heroism and buried in Arlington National Cemetery. But his father, an amputee who is blind in one eye, cannot travel to Virginia to visit his son's grave.
"I needed a place to go," he said. "I'll share it. I don't mind."
Arciola said he wants families of the other soldiers and Marines who were killed in action to feel free to visit the monument anytime at the Rumbrook Road home he shares with his mother, Josephine.
He said they could place flowers at the site or other mementos around the stone, which will sit next to a 20-foot flagpole already installed. "Why not? It's only grass," he said.
Arciola, 52, wants to invite local, state and federal officials to the Veterans Day dedication at his home. Elmsford Mayor Robert Williams said he would help Arciola send invitations to the public officials.
"I've known him a long, long time," Williams said. The two met in 1982, when Williams joined the Greenburgh Auxiliary Police.
Arciola said the backyard monument will resemble the veterans' monument near Elmsford Village Hall, where his son's name is listed under the "War on Terror."
Williams said he was surprised when Arciola told him about his plans for the monument, but that he understood his friend's wish.
"His other family members can drive by Village Hall and see the monument here. He can't get around," Williams said.
Donald Materi, who lives near Arciola on Rumbrook Road, welcomed the monument to the neighborhood. "I think it's very nice," he said. "He's paying tribute to his son and others."
The monument shouldn't be a problem with the town Building Department, either. Francis Sheehan, a member of the Greenburgh Zoning Board of Appeals, said Arciola can legally install the monument on his property.
Slain soldier stays on dad's mind
By LIZ SADLER
Courtesy of the Journal News
27 June 2005
ELMSFORD, NEW YORK — It was 4:30 a.m. when the telephone rang in Robert Arciola's room at the Hebrew Hospital Home.
A groggy Arciola, who was recovering at the Valhalla nursing home from surgery to amputate his left leg, picked up the receiver. A nurse told him his daughter, Casey, was downstairs.
She wasn't alone.
"As soon as she walked into the room, I saw the two guys in the uniform, I just start crying because I knew what was up," Arciola said last week. "In fact, I wouldn't even let the kid read the message that they read to you. I said, 'Son, you know, with all due respect, I love my country, I'm for the war and everything you guys stand for, but please don't read that to me. I don't want to hear it.' "
That was the dark February morning when Arciola learned that his youngest child, Michael, had been killed by enemy gunfire in Iraq. Michael, 20, was a machine-gunner assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division when he died Feb. 15 in the western city of Ramadi.
"I kept saying, 'Maybe it's somebody else,' until we saw his body," Arciola said Thursday in the Elmsford house he shares with his 86-year-old mother, Josephine.
Robert Arciola spoke publicly for the first time last week about losing Michael and how the small community of Elmsford came together to support him in the wake of his son's death.
Sitting on a day bed in the basement den of his house on Rumbrook Road, his new prosthetic leg detached because it was hurting him, Arciola's voice occasionally cracked with emotion as he spoke. His left eye, blind for two years because of diabetes, watered as he pondered why Michael always was interested in the Army — from the camouflage T-shirts he coveted as a boy to the $75 Army sleeping bag that was a Christmas gift one year.
"I was a right-winger, very much so. Everything was, 'Bomb 'em, bomb 'em, get rid of 'em,' " he said. "My mouth was bigger than anything else, so he always listened to that, I guess, and sometimes I wonder if I was the cause of his death. If I hadn't talked like that, maybe he wouldn't have joined the Army. I don't know."
Robert Arciola learned about 10 years ago that he had diabetes. His poor health left him unable to work. His illness meant he was often home during Michael's childhood, so the two grew close.
"Like any other good father and son, they enjoyed doing things together," said Elmsford Mayor Robert Williams, who met Robert Arciola in the early 1980s, when they both belonged to the Greenburgh Auxiliary Police. Arciola and his son used to fish together, the mayor recalled. And for a time, the pair delivered pizzas, with the elder Arciola driving and Michael running the pizzas to the doors.
As a boy, Michael surprised his father and mother, Teresa, with his athletic prowess. He excelled at all kinds of sports, and his enormous drive distinguished him on the playing field.
As a Little League player, Michael once walked away from a losing game because his teammates had given up and stopped trying.
"He said, 'Why am I the only one who's supposed to hit the balls and score all the runs? They're not trying,' " Robert Arciola recalled. "So he gathered up his stuff and walked out."
Always determined to be a soldier, Michael joined the Army in 2003 after graduating from Alexander Hamilton High School. He spent a year in North Korea's demilitarized zone before being deployed to Iraq.
"He came home the beginning of last June and he said, 'Guess where I'm going?' and I said, 'I knew it,' " Robert Arciola said. "It was no surprise."
On leave in January, Michael visited his father at the nursing home but spoke little of the war. That was the last time Robert Arciola saw his son alive.
"He said, 'Don't worry about me, Dad. You know us Arciolas. We always bounce back,'" his father recalled.
After returning to Iraq, Michael had two more days off when a Marine unit needed two machine-gunners for a mission and he volunteered. Even after he was shot, Michael stayed behind his machine gun, killing 22 insurgents before he fell, his father said.
"It's nothing really to be proud of, but I'm proud of him," Arciola said, breaking into soft sobs. "It's wrong, I know it's wrong to want somebody dead. You don't know which way to go. You want to be a good person, you want to live a good life, and you teach your kids all your life to be good and help people, and maybe we did it too much. I don't know."
Arciola, 52, is not as conservative as he once was. His political views have softened, and he spends much of the day lying on the day bed watching CNN.
Sometimes he talks to Michael, who was buried in March at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia after being awarded the Bronze Star for heroism.
"He always wanted to be and he went down as a hero," Robert Arciola said. "Those medals really mean nothing to you, you know. I mean, I'm proud of him, but I'm giving everything to my son, Robert."
The one memento that Arciola plans to keep is the folded American flag he received as a gift from Maj. Robert McWilliams, who was assigned to help the Arciolas through the grieving process. McWilliams, whom Arciola calls "his angel," wanted to do something to consecrate the flag.
"So, he took that flag upstairs, and my son was in the ice box for about two weeks before we buried him, so he put it in his arms hugging it for two weeks, so it would mean something to me and it really did," Arciola said, starting to cry. "It really made a big difference, so that one I'm keeping."
Robert Arciola is virtually blind and has lost one leg to diabetes, so he has found it nearly impossible to visit his son's grave at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Listen as Robert Arciola explains the tribute to his son, with images by Journal News staff photographer Matthew Brown.
His solution: build his own backyard memorial, a granite monument and flag display paying tribute to his son and all other Westchester service members who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003.
The 53-year-old town resident, whose son, Michael, was killed by sniper fire in February in Iraq, now is finished with the project and has invited a host of dignitaries and relatives of fallen soldiers to his home for the official unveiling today, Veterans Day.
"You know the saying, 'if you build it, they will come?' " he said, in reference to the movie "Field of Dreams." "I felt if I built this monument for all of our sons, their souls would come here."
He calls it the Freedom Stone. The 4-foot-tall granite marker, surrounded by flowers and standing beside a flagpole, lists the names of his son and other Westchester soldiers who died in action.
After months of hard work, everyone from the Elmsford mayor to Rep. Nita Lowey, D-Harrison, is expected to come to Arciola's backyard at 28 Rumbrook Road to remember the young men who sacrificed their lives fighting overseas in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.
For Robert Arciola, this began with a personal struggle.
Last winter, he was left devastated, physically and emotionally, by diabetes. Doctors amputated his left leg.
His son, Michael, came to visit him at Phelps Memorial Hospital in Sleepy Hollow; a photograph of the son smiling at his father's bedside now takes a treasured place in Arciola's living room.
It was days after the photo was taken that Pfc. Michael Anthony Arciola — a 20-year-old former high school baseball star — was sent to Iraq. A few weeks later, on February 15, the Army machine-gunner was shot dead.
Arciola, a former painting contractor who is disabled and lives with his elderly mother, had to be driven to the funeral in Arlington by a friend.
While he was proud to see his son take his place among heroes of past wars, he hasn't returned. The trip is just too burdensome.
Still, he has found other ways to keep his son's memory alive. Pictures of his son, from childhood through graduation and into the armed forces, adorn walls and tables in his house.
He also wears his son's white Nikes and every day sits down at his Casio keyboard to play "My Girl," The Temptations hit that was his son's favorite song. He thinks back to the times he'd play this and other Motown classics during family road trips.
"I want to talk to my son and visit my son, and I need a place to go," he said of his backyard memorial. "My son Michael was my hero. He's a patriot, and he belongs in Arlington, buried with the greatest in this country. But I know his spirit will be here. I had a dream right after he died, and he said he would never leave me."
But he didn't do it just for his son. The stone lists four other Westchester service members who died — Bernard Gooden Jr., Anthony Lagman, Kevin Cuming and David Ayala. He also will add the names of other local soldiers who died since the monument's brass plates were cast.
"I figured everyone's in the same boat I'm in, with their sons buried far away," he said. "Their pain is my pain. I feel like I'm bringing them home to the county where they grew up."
The flag flying from the pole was donated by a friend over the summer, and the granite slab was placed earlier this week. Arciola has paid more than $4,000 for the project.
"I feel as though my son's home again," he said, walking beside the monument with the aid of a cane Wednesday. "Now I could come outside and say 'Hey, Mike, how you doing today? How you doing, fellows?"
Some in Arciola's family won't attend the ceremony; his ex-wife is going to Arlington for a service. And a few residents privately question the backyard tribute, considering it sad and strange.
But many others say they will support Arciola in his grief.
"This is a healing process for him," said Elmsford Mayor Robert Williams, today's master of ceremonies. "People want to be there to support him and the family."
Arciola said today's dedication at 2 p.m. is just the beginning. He's inviting the public to come anytime, and he is installing lights so people can visit at night.
He's hoping it will remind people of the sacrifices service members are making in the "War on Terror."
While he supports the war in Iraq, he said
the monument is not about politics. "It's about the loss of our children,"
he said. "It's something you really can't explain until it happens to you."
Elmsford to name field for fallen soldier
By REBECCA BAKER ERWIN
COURTESY OF THE JOURNAL NEWS
31 March 2006
Michael Arciola was the catcher of his Little League team, spending countless hours practicing and playing on the baseball diamond at West Rumbrook Park in Elmsford.
Tomorrow morning, that field will be dedicated to Arciola, a 20-year-old who was killed last year by sniper fire in western Iraq.
The Elmsford Little League will host the ceremony immediately after its annual opening day parade, which starts at 10 a.m. The ceremony will also feature "Mike's Team," whose players are being sponsored by the Arciola family.
Arciola's father, Robert, choked back tears when he learned of the Little League dedication this week.
"That's amazing," the Greenburgh resident said. I'm overwhelmed. What can I say? It's a great honor."
Arciola was a machine-gunner assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, when he was killed by enemy gunfire Feb. 15 in Ramadi. He was awarded the Bronze Star for heroism and buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Since then, Elmsford has renamed the playing field at Alexander Hamilton High School in his honor and created the Michael Arciola History Award for seniors and the Michael Arciola Memorial Scholarship for a senior athlete who shows leadership.
The Elmsford Little League already has installed a bronze plaque in Arciola's memory and retired his Little League number, 4. The sign naming the Little League field went up Saturday, but the dedication was delayed to coincide with the parade, league secretary Steve Booth said.
"He was a star in the Elmsford Little League," Booth said of Arciola.
Booth said the members of "Mike's Team" will wear red uniforms at the request of the soldier's mother, Josephine Arciola.
They also will wear ballcaps bearing a large "A" surrounded by a halo.
The haloed "A" is the logo of the Los Angeles
Angels of Anaheim, Booth said, adding that it also fits the former player
August 8, 2007:
A wake will be held today for Robert Arciola Sr., a disabled Elmsford resident whose 20-year-old son, Michael, was killed in Iraq two years ago.
Arciola, 54, died over the weekend from complications from surgery at Phelps Memorial Hospital, according to a written notice sent by the village.
Arciola publicly shared his grief over the loss of his youngest child, who was killed by enemy gunfire Feb. 15, 2005 in Ramadi. Michael Arciola was awarded the Bronze Star for heroism and buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Robert Arciola Sr. publicly shared his grief over the loss of his youngest son, and built a backyard memorial to honor Michael's sacrifice.
Calling hours will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. today at McElroy Funeral Home, 72 E. Main St. in Elmsford.
The funeral service will be held at 10 a.m.
tomorrow at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 59 E. Main St., in Elmsford.
Photo Courtesy of Holly, February 2009