Over the weekend, forty-one-year-old Major Eric Neal Jr. was laid to rest. On Friday, day one of his two-day funeral services began with a viewing of his body at the Sir Colville Young Square in Ladyville. On Saturday, Major Neal received an official military send-off from the Belize Defence Force, an organization he dedicated his life to serving. Vejea Alvarez tells us more about the send-off fit only for a stellar serviceman.
Major Eric Richard Neal Jr. was laid to rest with full military honors on Saturday October 16. It was a two day event that ended at Homeland Memorial Cemetery with a convoy of vehicles joining the procession from Price Barracks where the 41-year-old soldier had resided with his wife and daughter. It was a somber event that reflected the respect and love that many held for the man that once served in many capacities including the Former Governor General’s Aide De Camp. Brigadier General Steven Ortega told Love News that he would remember Major Neal as a scholar and a pioneer in higher learning at the Belize Defence Force.
Brigadier General Steven Ortega, BDF: “It’s a very somber time for us in the BDF as we lay to rest one of our officers. It is always a testing time when a family member dies and so this is how it is for us right now here in the force. Major Neal I think joined about seventeen years ago and I know he did his officer training in Guyana and he was one of the few officers in the BDF who would always stress on academics. “Guys get your academics going.”, “Get your Masters, get your Bachelors, get your degree program going.” and so that was one of the things he always stressed on and I believe that’s one legacy he’ll leave with us and I believe the officers coming behind would understand the need for such.”
Major Neal also wore the hat as Chief Scout for the Belize Scouts Association and was a sitting member of the Scout’s Endowment Fund. His contributions and passions for scouting was exemplary as noted by Roberto Lopez of the National Executive of the Scouting Association.
Roberto Lopez, National Executive, Scouting Association: “Major Eric Neal, our Chief Scout, he held the highest position anybody could ever have in the scouting association of Belize. So his position as a position that just does not bring encouragement but it also brings a lot of knowledge and a lot of advocating for young people. And this is what Major Eric Neal did for us our Chief Scout, he was the person that was there to advocate for the young people. He was there to put the young people up to the forefront of anything that the Scout Association used to do. So when you ask me what is Eric Neal to the Scout Association he is more than just our Chief Scout. He is a friend, he’s a brother, he’s a companion and he’s more than anything else a loveable person that the Scout Association could have ever encountered within the scout movement.”
Neal’s sister, Antonette Neal- Leslie, stood at the Sir Colville Young Parade Square still trying to come to grips with the loss her family has endured. The sounds of the 21 gun salute reminded the dozens in attendance that this is a farewell for an incredibly respected soldier. As the red urn was placed inside the columbarium the sister comforted herself saying that Neal would now be her guardian angel.
Antonette Neal – Leslie, Sister of Marjo Eric Neal Jr.: “I don’t have the vocabulary to describe my brother but I can truly say loyal, honest, friendly, loving, caring, he’s a complete package. I’ve never met anyone like Eric Jr. So unique, so kind, so open, ready to lend a helping hand I mean I cannot describe who he is. To me right now my angel.”
Neal has been dubbed a patriotic Belizean in many quarters. Former CEO in the Ministry of National Security, Felix Enriquez, told Love News that he relied heavily on Neal for balanced reporting and investigations within the force. His tenure with the former Governor General Sir Colville Young spanned over a decade and his dedication to the Scouting Association was unparalleled. Neal passed away on October 1.