Army reservist from LI dies in MexicoBy ZACHARY R. DOWDY
January 11, 2012
Sgt. Joseph Bitet, a Smithtown native who so loved his country and military life that he completed two tours of duty as a Marine in Iraq -- and then enlisted in the Army Reserve -- died Saturday under what his family termed "mysterious circumstances" while in Mexico.
Bitet, 30, was vacationing at the Riu Palace in Cancun when he died, apparently in an early morning accident, said his mother, Annette Bitet, who added that services for her son would be held this week.
"The cause of death was severe internal injuries," she said Tuesday night while en route to Kennedy Airport to meet her son's body. "We don't know how it happened."
Annette Bitet said that she has been contacted by several U.S. officials, including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) about the case.
She has also hired an attorney based in Cancun to follow the investigation.
Officials could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for King said the congressman had contacted the U.S. consulate in Mexico and was monitoring the situation.
Joseph Bitet was on vacation with his girlfriend, Sgt. Allyson Jo Parla, 29, of New Hyde Park, who served in the Army's 77th Sustainment Brigade in Iraq and is now assigned to the 311th Military History Detachment in Fort Totten in Queens. Both were photographers.
She was not present with Joseph Bitet at the moment the accident occurred, she said, adding that she was in their room, but received a call from hotel officials, who told her to come to the lobby because Bitet was hurt.
"I saw him on a stretcher being pulled into the ambulance," she said, adding that she was told Bitet had fallen from the fifth floor.
The couple had been dating for two years, after meeting during training in Fort Meade, Md. They planned to get married, Parla said. "He was the kindest and most compassionate person I've ever met," she said. "I'm going to miss him so much and I'm not sure how I'm going to make it without him."
Annette Bitet said her son graduated from Hauppauge High School and enlisted as a Marine. "Ever since he was a little boy, he wanted to be in the military. He enjoyed the camaraderie and had a lot of respect for all the other soldiers."
Bitet was assigned to the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command in Coraopolis, Pa., and he served as a public affairs officer. He had just completed advanced leadership training at Fort Meade.
"He really loved the service," his mother said. "He really did. He was a good soldier."