By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO December 21, 2004 Fallen American hero and former resident of Sullivan County Sergeant Catalin Dima continued to be honored for his heroic actions in Iraq, albeit posthumously.
His Army unit, the 411th Engineer Brigade Construction Management Section, wrote a letter in memory of Dima, which was read aloud by Sullivan County legislator, veteran, and chairman of the Veteran Affairs Committee Ron Hiatt.
Hiatt read it at a ceremony Thursday in which Dimas family was presented with a collage of photos of Dima from his days in Iraq. In addition, Dimas wife Florika was handed two checks by the Sullivan County Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Sullivan County Disabled American Veterans.
Sgt. Dimas unit just returned from Iraq this past week. The message Hiatt read was written by First Sergeant Trent Atkinson, Catalins supervisor, on behalf of the unit.
In the letter, Atkinson wrote that Catalin believed in and fought for every persons right to freedom and humanity.
Although he spent most of his life in Romania, Dima spared no opportunity to call the United States his home.
He earned his American citizenship this past October. Atkinson said the U.S. was indebted to him for his ultimate sacrifice.
Atkinson wrote to the family that I pray that you find solace in the knowledge that Catalin had passed on surrounded by loving friends who absolutely adored him. The last faces he saw were the smiles of those endearing friends. Although he spent his hours halfway across the world, you were all right there alongside of him every single day. He spoke so often of all of you, always with joy in his voice and, sometimes, with sadness in his eyes, for you were his strength and his spirit from so very far away.
Hiatt, who choked up at times, continued reading, Catalins life is to be celebrated. Anyone who was ever blessed with having known him or even the opportunity to meet him would know this to be true. He would want us to laugh today . . . to be happy, and even a little silly. He would want us to do this because it is how he celebrated every day of his life. His animated personality was such a large part of the spirit and morale of our small section that it is difficult to recall a single event without being reminded of him.
He was a beloved friend and an inspiration to all of us. He taught us not to judge a book by its cover . . . for he surprised us every day. He taught us that hard work and dedication can bring you anywhere and that dreams really do come true. He taught me that family is the most important asset a man can possess. He taught us that life should never be taken too seriously, and finally, he taught us that a good friend should never be taken for granted.
Afterwards, Florika Dima thanked all those who have supported her family since the tragedy.