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Mar 4, 2020

Corporal Reynaldo Choco is Laid to Rest in Big Falls

A solemn ceremony was held in the village of Big Falls, Toledo, for fallen soldier Corporal Reynaldo Choco. His flag-draped casket was carried from his house in the village, to the Lady of Guadalupe Church and then to the burial site, where he received a gun salute. The corporal was one of four officers of the Belize Defence Force who died in a helicopter crash last Thursday after eight years of service to the force and the country. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has the following report. 


Jasmin Choco, Wife of Deceased

Jasmin Choco

“Up to now it’s very hard and I am trying to cope with it.  I am a Christian, I am a Seventh Day Adventist and I trust that God is my strength and he is holding me right now, that’s why I am standing here with the strength I have.”


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Today, a wife is joined by the southern community of Big Falls in mourning the tragic passing of Corporal Reynaldo Choco, a son of the soil whose greatest  aspiration as a Belize Defense Force soldier was to serve with pride and honour.  In carrying out his mission as a BDF airman, he, along with three others, laid down his life for his country.  This morning, at a funeral service in his home village, a host of family, friends and colleagues, as well as the military brass, attended a memorial mass in celebration of the life of the twenty-nine-year-old helicopter technician.


Capt. Kenroy Smith

Capt. Kenroy Smith, Eulogist

“Having served just about eight years within the Belize Defense Force, Corporal Reynaldo Choco attempted his first promotional course which allowed him to become a junior leader within the ranks of the BDF.  Subsequently, he went on his second promotional course which allowed him to obtain the rank of corporal, which he now has.  His enthusiasm for knowledge allowed him to excel in many other courses, both local and abroad.  Some notable courses would have been his basic airframe course which he attained in Kingston, Jamaica.”


That general awareness and knowledge of technical information where helicopters are concerned led Corporal Choco to become a member of the esteemed BDF Air Wing.  For the young aviator, it was all about service to country and devotion to his family.


Kenroy Smith

“Corporal Choco loved his family, he even loved his job.  He loved flying.  He was dedicated to his job as a technician and an aircraft engineering crew.  Corporal Choco dedicated much of his time to the development of the helicopter programme within the BDF Air Wing, like many of his other colleagues.”


Those in his peer group include fallen comrades Major Adran Ramirez, Major Radford Baizar and Corporal Yassir Mendez.  The team of four perished in a helicopter crash on February twenty-seventh during a mission to provide aerial support for an anti-drug operation which netted local law enforcement its biggest cocaine haul yet.  His wife of four years, primary school teacher Jasmin Choco, was unaware that he was on duty that morning of the tragedy.


Jasmin Choco

“I didn’t know he had gone out until six o’clock in the afternoon when I was trying to contact him during the day and I saw he didn’t respond to any of my messages.  He was supposed to reach home on Thursday evening, I didn’t receive any messages from him so I decided to call.  I called his phone, one of his coworkers answered me and told me [that] my husband had gone to a flight from early in the morning and hadn’t returned as yet.  After that, I waited, I continued sending messages to him and I had no response from him.  At eleven o’clock in the night I called back his phone and the same co-worker answered the phone and told me they are still waiting for them to reach.”


But neither the Huey nor its flight crew returned to Price Barracks that night.  In fact, the aircraft and its team of pilots and airmen were submerged in a large body of water not far from Gales Point Manatee, in the vicinity of where the drug plane had landed several hours earlier.


Today, the mood was somber.  Inside Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, the Choco family sat in pews adjacent to the high command of the Ministry of National Security.  Villagers from Big Falls and others from across Toledo District also descended on the churchyard where the memorial service inside the building was observed in English, as well as Maya, Choco’s native tongue.


Michael Peyrefitte, Minister of National Security

Michael Peyrefitte

“I just attended the funeral of a fallen soldier, beautiful family, eleven siblings, fun loving family and it’s just gut wrenching to see them grieve this way for their brother and husband and family member.”


Buried with full military honours, the pageantry of the Belize Defense Force sendoff included the coffin-led procession along the Southern Highway, complete with the traditional slow march, gun salute, and presentation of the Belizean standard to Choco’s widow.


Family Member of Deceased

“He will be dearly missed.  Reynaldo was a family man, he loved all his brothers and sisters, especially his mom.  Corporal Reynaldo Choco, sunrise: March 1st, 1989 and sunset: February 27th, 2020. The amount of people who have shown up to pay their respect is only a testimony to the lives he personally touched.  He will be remembered and missed by all of us.  It will take a while for us to come to terms and accept this overwhelming and senseless loss, but for now let us appreciate the amazing man that he was.”


Isani Cayetano reporting for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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