Fernley soldier killed in Iraq memorialized with bench
Appeal Staff Writer
Friends, family, fellow soldiers and community members pitched in $1,000 to install a bench at the Northern Nevada Veterans Cemetery in Fernley in honor of a local man who was killed in Iraq.
Jenetah Avant, mother of the soldier’s fiancée, Pfc. Alexandria Avant and a paralegal with the Nevada National Guard in Carson City, said the granite memorial bench honors Pfc. Alexander Varela, 19, killed May 19 in Baghdad when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.
Varela, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, was part of a unit looking for soldiers who might have escaped the May 12 ambush that took the life of Minden soldier Sgt. Anthony Schober. Five other soldiers died along with Varela.
Avant said that Varela was buried near Sacramento, and her daughter wanted a memorial here since Varela went to school in Fernley, where his father lives.
“He was a wonderful young man,” she said. “We had a memorial ceremony that the governor attended, one day after his funeral service.”
She said donations for the bench came from the community, as well as Varela’s fellow soldiers, and it has been a great comfort to his 20-year-old fiancée.
“It’s been really hard for her because they dated for four or five years, off and on,” Avant said. “She put together the memorial service. We were there when his body was flown home.”
Avant, who is an executive assistant for Employers Support Guard & Reserve, said the bench is located at the front of the cemetery near the memorial honoring the victims of Sept. 11.
Varela’s mother, Rinda Pope of Sacramento, said the family was grateful to those who donated to the bench fund.
“It is a beautiful and moving tribute to our son, and we thank everyone involved in making this happen,” she said.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 882-2111 ext. 351.