Lisa J. Huriash/Sun-Sentinel
NORTH LAUDERDALE -- In a standing-room-only crowd that snaked outside the chapel, Pfc. Daniel Agami was memorialized Tuesday by hundreds of friends – and even some strangers from the local chapter of Jewish War Veterans – as a happy-go-lucky man who was profoundly patriotic.
Agami, 25, who grew up in Broward County, was killed in Baghdad on Thursday.
Rabbi Yossi Denburg of Coral Springs Chabad Lubavitch remembered him as a young man who had "not been given a chance to grow old" and had joined the Army not for a paycheck, but because he found his calling.
After the tearful memorial service at the Star of David Memorial Gardens in North Lauderdale, Agami's family and friends walked to his burial spot. There were too many people in too many cars to drive to his grave, so they formed a procession and waited until his parents came to take the front row. His mother, Beth Agami, walked while supported in her husband Itzhak's arms. The sight of them made some of his friends wail.
An Army officer gave his mother a folded flag and a handful of awards including the Purple Heart for being wounded in action, the Bronze Star for his dedication and a gold star lapel pin.
His friends first saw hints of his pending military career after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when he consoled them.
"He said, 'America is going to fix the problem,'" said Rachel Kenner, 24, of Boynton Beach, his friend since childhood. "When he puts his mind to something, that's it."
Agami enlisted in the Army two years ago and was assigned to a station in Germany. He had been in Iraq for about a year and was often sent on raids to scope out bombs and other weapons.
He died when an improvised device detonated near his Humvee. The other men in the vehicle were also killed: Alphonso Montenegro II, 22, of Far Rockaway, N.Y.; Ryan M. Wood, 22, of Oklahoma City; Anthony D. Hebert, 19, of Lake City, Minn., and Thomas R. Leemhuis, 23, of Binger, Okla.
Brian Gross, 24, of West Palm Beach, his friend of five years said: "He loved to party. I close my eyes and I remember that." He said he tries to block the attack on Agami's Humvee from his mind.
Sandra Becker, Daniel Agami's grandmother, said the family was moved by the outpouring of hundreds of friends who came to share their tears.
She said she'll remember him by the nickname that his non-Jewish comrades affectionately gave him: "G.I. Jew."
"How can you put it in the words? He was the best of the best," she said.
Agami was well-known for taking pride in teaching his fellow soldiers, many of whom told him they were unfamiliar with his people, about Judaism.
In the Army "Jewish kids often hide the fact they are Jewish," Rabbi Denburg said. "He was the only Jew on base that was openly proud to say he was a Jew."
Agami is survived by his parents, Beth and Itzhak, of Parkland, who are known in the Jewish community for their philanthropy.
He is also survived by his sister Shaina, 7, and a brother Ilan, 23, who married just two weeks ago.
Erik Cilen, 25, of Coral Springs, was Agami's best friend for almost 20 years. Cilen said they spoke the day before his death.
"He told me he was going on a mission and he was scared," Cilen said. "He had said that if, God forbid, anything happened to him, this is where he belonged.
"I can't forget him," he said. Then he started to cry.
The family requests donations in Daniel Agami's memory to the Lubavitch Hebrew Academy Community School, 1500 North State Road 7, Margate, FL. 33063.
A special site has been designed to pepetuate Daniel's memory www.danielagami.com