Army Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar, who "fought against the powers of darkness," was remembered for his mission to help others during his funeral service Tuesday at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Abingdon. (Images by Matt Button/BSMG staff)

Army Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar, who "fought against the powers of darkness," was remembered for his mission to help others during his funeral service Tuesday at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Abingdon.

Staff. Sgt. De Alencar, 37, a Joppatowne High graduate from Edgewood and a member of the Army Special Forces, was killed April 8 "of injuries sustained when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire during combat operations" in Afghanistan.


He was a member of the 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) assigned to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where he lived with his wife, Natasha, also a Joppatowne High grad, and their five children.

Ray Van Pelt, a deacon with St. Joan of Arc Church in Aberdeen and a retired Army colonel, preached the funeral Mass.

He said De Alencar was on a mission "to help liberate people oppressed by the powers of evil and hatred."

"Mark fought against the powers of darkness," Van Pelt said. "In fighting this evil Mark gave his last full measure of devotion."

The service included several scripture readings and tributes to De Alencar from his stepson and his father.

At least 200 people filled the sanctuary at the church for the service led by Pastor Rev. Jack Ward.

"You have honored us greatly with your presences and Mark has honored us with his sacrifice," Ward told De Alencar's family.

The funeral procession was led by a marked Harford County Sheriff's Office patrol vehicle, and police cars from Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace were parked along Abingdon Road near the church.

Staff Sgt. De Alencar's flag-draped casket was carried in a green McComas Funeral Home hearse, which bore the motto of the Army Special Forces, "De oppresso liber," or "to free the oppressed."

Six soldiers in dress uniforms - many of them wearing the distinctive green beret of Special Forces - carried the casket inside the church as more soldiers stood outside.

Members of the Knights of Columbus were also present at the entrance to the church and paid tribute as the casket was brought it. Members of the clergy praised them during the service for their support of the De Alencar family.

Ward noted during the service that St. Francis de Sales had been Staff Sgt. De Alencar's "spiritual home" growing up in Harford County.

He said later that the De Alencar family had attended the church.

Ward said he invited Van Pelt to lead the funeral Mass because "I though it would be nice to have a person that was career Army preach the funeral Mass, and he was willing to do it, which I was very thankful for."

"We all know that it takes a special man to put on a green beret," Van Pelt said.

He said the Special Forces take "the very best that our Army and our nation have to offer," and that, based on conversations with Staff Sgt. De Alencar's wife, children, siblings and parents, "he was the very best that their family had to offer."

Van Pelt recalled family members telling him things about Staff Sgt. De Alencar, such as he was "my best friend,""a born leader,""always in motion" and "humble."

"My brothers and sisters, I think Mark's greatest mission in life was to love his family, and he did that every day with every ounce of his spirit," Van Pelt said.

Tributes from stepson, father

DeShaun Osborne, who has been Staff Sgt. De Alencar's stepson since age 5, paid tribute to a man he said treated him and his siblings "like we were his own, like he was our dad."

While he was overcome with emotion at some points in his eulogy, he stressed he was trying to find something positive in his family's tragic situation.

"Just know that everything happens for a reason . . . God doesn't make mistakes," Osborne said.

He said his stepfather taught him values such as integrity, hard work, doing what needs to be done rather than what he wants to do.

He is now 20 years old and is a sophomore at Missouri Valley State University.

Osborne also paid tribute to the soldiers sitting in the pews, thanking them for their willingness to put their lives on the line to defend the freedom of people they don't know, and that Americans can go about their lives because of the sacrifices soldiers make.

"Mark is a hero, and one thing about heroes, heroes never die, they live forever," Osborne said.

Joao De Alencar, the father of Staff Sgt. De Alencar, eulogized his son with support from his daughters, Stephanie De Alencar Wicker and Melanie De Alencar McManus. He spoke softly, as he is recovering from a stroke, and his daughters relayed his words.

A retired Army sergeant first class, Joao De Alencar served for 20 years and said after the service he came to Harford County when his son was 10 or 11 years old and the father had been assigned to Aberdeen Proving Ground.

"I love him; I'm very sad," the elder De Alencar said, summing up his son's eulogy.

Monday viewing

People paid their respects to Staff Sgt. De Alencar and his family throughout the day Monday during a viewing at McComas Funeral Home in Abingdon.

Staff Sgt. De Alencar lay in a coffin covered by an American flag as two soldiers in dress uniform stood watch. Soldiers from his unit attended, and they talked with De Alencar's family and friends.


Photos of the soldier, going back to his childhood, were displayed on a television monitor in the viewing room. People had written heartfelt messages on tribute boards as well.

Motorcycle riders with the Harford County-based Maryland Chapter 2 of the Hogs & Heroes Foundation stood outside the funeral home, holding American flags.

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The group arrived at noon, and members had been standing post in shifts, chapter president Mike Waid said.

"We support the families of fallen officers and military and veterans — anyone in public service," Waid said.

Members of the chapter are in the military, police and fire and EMS; Waid said he is a member of the Darlington Volunteer Fire Company.

The riders are scheduled to escort Staff Sgt. De Alencar's funeral procession to Arlington National Cemetery, where he will be buried Wednesday, according to Waid.

He said it had been "touching" to speak with members of his family during the viewing, as they came out several times to thank them for coming.

Members of the Harford County Sheriff's Office Youth Explorer Post 6600 showed their support as well by directing traffic into the funeral home parking lot and welcoming visitors.

Sgt. Christopher Crespo, a post advisor, said those present had volunteered for the detail.

Harford County Councilman Mike Perrone, of Joppatowne, talked with ToLoria Spruell, who was representing the Harford County volunteer fire and EMS service, outside the funeral home.


Harford County soldier, Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar, killed in Afghanistan

Mark De Alencar, a 1998 graduate of Joppatowne High School, and an Army Special Forces solider, died after being wounded in action in Afghanistan Saturday.

"I just came out to pay my respects and show respect to somebody who served their country and was a part of the community I represent," Perrone said.

Perrone graduated from Joppatowne High School in 1993, five years before Staff Sgt. De Alencar.

Spruell is a member of the Abingdon Volunteer Fire Company, but she was representing Harford County's whole volunteer fire and EMS system.

She said representatives of the system often pay their respects to the families of fallen military or law enforcement.

"We're a team, we're family; we have deep commitment for our loved ones," she said. "It's a totally different work when you're a first responder, so we support one another."

Harford final tribute

Harford residents will be able to pay one final tribute to Staff Sgt. De Alencar Wednesday, as his funeral procession will pass through the Joppatowne High campus on its way to Arlington.

Charles Emge, a funeral director with McComas, said the procession is scheduled to leave the funeral home on Cokesbury Road at 9 a.m., head along Abingdon Road to Route 40, then to Joppa Farm Road to the high school.

The procession will go through the campus and then back to Joppa Farm Road, to Route 40 and then Route 152. Fire trucks are scheduled to be near the Route 152 entrance ramp to I-95 with American flags hung from their ladders as the procession gets on the highway.

"Harford County will say 'goodbye' to him," Emge said.

Harford County’s “Choose Civility” campaign kicked off with a breakfast event at the Water’s Edge Events Center in Belcamp on Wednesday.