“Father is the noblest title a man can be given. It is more than a biological role. It signifies a patriarch, a leader, an exemplar, a confidant, a teacher, a hero, a friend.”
— Robert L. Backman
On Saturday, March 13, and Thursday, March 18, President Tab Rhodes and I had the incredibly sad but honorable privilege of paying our respects on behalf of PPOA as we attended funeral services for Sergeants Armando Meneses and Jamie Arakawa, both of whom died in the line of duty from COVID-19 workplace exposures.
The words “God, Family, Country” were capitalized on the front of the funeral program with a command-presence photograph of Sergeant Armando Fernandez Meneses in his LASD uniform. Underneath his photo were the dates, January 23, 1961–February 16, 2021 — the day Armando was born and the day he passed — two dates shared by every human being on the planet. On the back of the program, there was a photograph of a jubilant, smiling Armando with his wife, their four sons and their daughter. Armando also had two grandchildren. Services were held for Armando on Saturday morning, March 13, at Calvary Chapel in Downey.
“The Broken Chain” poem was inside the funeral program above a collage of 13 photographs of Sergeant Jamie J. Arakawa and his family. Jamie’s two dates were June 6, 1967–February 8, 2021. The last sentence of the poem reads … “Our family chain is broken, and nothing seems the same; but as God calls us one by one, the chain will link again.” On the back of the program, there was one photograph of a joyful, smiling Jamie with his wife, their two sons, two daughters and two grandchildren standing in front of a life-size Christmas Nativity scene. Services were held for Jamie on Thursday morning, March 18, at Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove.
I am not sure if Sergeants Meneses and Arakawa knew each other, but it became abundantly clear to me that both these fallen heroes shared the same core values and beliefs that were exemplified by their life’s priorities. Both were men of faith. Their services reflected Armando’s and Jamie’s strong belief in God. The Meneses family shared Armando’s motto: “Do everything for God, love your family and serve your country.” The Arakawa family wrote, “On February 8, 2021, our lives were forever changed, but we take comfort in knowing that our father was a man of God and is leaving behind a legacy that will be difficult to replicate.”
Two examples of why faith could have been paramount in Armando’s and Jamie’s lives occurred when they were children. Armando was born in Dagupan City, Philippines, and attended elementary school at Divine Word Academy. At age 11, Armando and his family moved from the Philippines to Long Beach to pursue the American dream. He excelled in school, graduating from Long Beach Poly High School and attending UCLA on a tennis scholarship, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in political science. At age 9, Jamie suffered the unimaginable loss of his father, who was 32 years old and the victim of an armed robbery in Los Angeles. This injustice has yet to be solved. Jamie and his 11-year-old brother were raised by a loving mother who was stern but who prayerfully kept them both on the right track. Jamie’s brother is an active law enforcement captain.
Before beginning their law enforcement careers, both Armando and Jamie served their country, enlisting in the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps, respectively. Both men were honorably discharged and continued their dedication and service to their community by becoming deputy sheriffs at the LASD.
Both families expressed heartfelt gratitude on the Department’s amazing response during their darkest hours. The Meneses family said, “Words cannot express how grateful we are to our second family, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, for being there for us day and night.” The Arakawa family said, “To the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, thank you for everything that your organization has done for our dad’s career and our family. You are a class organization, and we will forever be grateful for you.”
The toughest yet most inspiring parts of their respective services were the profound eulogies given by the children of Armando and Jamie. Each of them was so proud of their father’s chosen profession, but each left no doubt that their dad’s number one priority after God was not his job; it was to protect, care and unconditionally love each of them and their mothers, individually and collectively as a family. Their fathers left legacies that will live for generations to come.
I am sure that Nori and the Meneses family and Sandra and the Arakawa family will find some peace and solace knowing that many are praying for their families. Please continue to do so. Rest in peace, Sergeants Meneses and Arakawa.