ROTC Captain dies suddenly

Annelle Despaignes will always remember being greeted by her commander, Captain Edward Palmer.

“Every morning he would shake your hand and say ‘How are you?'” said the St. John’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadet. “He remembered the name of your mother, your sister, your cat, even what you did yesterday.”

Palmer, 37, died on the morning of Oct. 31. He collapsed and lost consciousness, near Union Turnpike and 170th Street, after finishing a three-mile run with Sergeant Shurwin Julien, Army sources said.

“You have no idea,” said Despaignes of how much she will miss Palmer’s morning hellos. “He was the first officer I’ve never been afraid of and I want to emulate him.”

Julien said Palmer was in the best of health. The cause of Palmer’s death is still unknown, according to his family.

“I saw him walking in a circle and he collapsed,” Julien said. “I was ready to pick him up and joke with him and I realized something was wrong.”

A memorial service, which included a 21-gun salute and was attended by more than 100 family members and friends, was held last Sunday morning at St. Thomas More Church.

Palmer was a soldier who got things done and a man who made everyone feel welcome and appreciated, according to those who knew him.

“You could call him anytime you wanted to,” Julien said. “A lot of people would call just straight to him and he would take the message and everything. He always had an answer.”

During the two months that Palmer was the commander of the 340th Military Police Company and in charge of the University’s ROTC program, he improved the lighting in the building behind the Residence Village, found jobs for other soldiers, got special details for the cadets and much more.

“Captain Palmer was inspiring to the unit,” Julien said. “He wanted to change the aspect of the unit. He motivated each and every soldier here. Everybody tried to emulate him.”

The Loudoun County, Virginia native spent over 20 years in the Army. He took over the 340th after gaining command from Captain Edward Diamantis in September.

He is survived by his wife, Ping Li, and his three children, Alan, Thomas and Anna. His wife is expecting a child in the coming months.

Palmer will be buried on Nov. 17 in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, but the mark he left on those in New York will never be forgotten.

“He was the last person to say goodbye to you and the first person to come over to you”, Despaignes said of Palmer. “He just took over. People have been trying for 12 years to do something that he did in two months.”