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Hundreds Turn Out For Return Of Slain Soldier

From the Brownsville Herald:

Under honor guard escort, the remains of Army Pfc. Kristian Menchaca are unloaded off an airplane at the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport in Brownsville, Texas, Monday, June 26, 2006.

Hundreds turn out for arrival of Pfc. Kristian Menchaca

BY Emma Perez-Treviño, Chris Mahon
and Kevin Sieff

June 27, 2006 — The body of Army Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, arrived at the Brownsville airport Monday in a solemn ceremony broken only by the sobs of his young widow.

Eighteen-year-old Christina Menchaca of Big Spring, Texas received her husband’s body shortly after noon, surrounded by family, her little boy, and Rev. Carlos Villarreal.

They watched as 11 members of the 101st Screaming Eagles Military Funeral Detachment team provided full honors as they carried the varnished brown coffin from a chartered Falcon jet to a waiting hearse.

The coffin was draped with an American flag.

“He was a young man who had dreams and hopes and they just vanished,” U.S. Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz said after watching the arrival of Menchaca’s body with local officials who showed their respect at the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport.

“He deserves a hero’s burial,” Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, said.

Menchaca, a native of Brownsville and Houston, Army Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, 25 of Madras, Ore., and Army Spc. David J. Babineau, 25 of Springfield, Mass. came under fire June 16 at a traffic control point south of Yusufiyah, Iraq.

Babineau’s body was recovered at the ambush site, but Menchaca and Tucker were kidnapped. Their bodies were found June 19 next to a road near the village of Mufaraji, northwest of Yusufiyah. Several explosive devices were encountered, delaying the recovery of the bodies until the following day. The three soldiers were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.

While in Brownsville in the mid to late 1990s, Menchaca attended Porter High School and Vela Middle School, which is no more than a mile north of the Brownsville Event Center – where his visitation will be held today.

For the last week, the flags — of the United States, Texas, and Mexico — that line Ruben M. Torres Boulevard have all flown at half-mast. They’ve been accompanied by banners and tickers reading “in honor of Pfc. Kristian Menchaca.”

On Tuesday, when Menchaca’s body was returned to Brownsville, hundreds more flags appeared on the boulevard.

In addition to the police procession that accompanied Menchaca’s hearse, hundreds of Brownsville residents, some noticeably weeping, drove slowly to the city’s events center. From city officials to “Los Escondidos,” a biker group, every member of the procession carried his own American flag.

“By coming here I am showing my respect,” said Frank Garza, a former soldier. Even though he doesn’t know Menchaca’s family, Garza’s nephew, who is currently assigned to Border Patrol duty, will be driving in from Arizona for the funeral.

Like Garza, Adelaida Rey showed her support by waving a small flag from the side of the road. She brought her grandchildren along to share the experience.

“El estaba peleando por nuestro freedom, y por eso estamos aqui,” she said. “He was fighting for our freedom and because of that we are here.”

Although Rey speaks only Spanish, she carefully pronounces the word “freedom” in English. For the woman waving both Texas and American flags, it’s a word too important to be translated.

While the procession drove by, Rey’s grandchildren were as solemn as she was. “Es importante que lo vean,” she said. “It’s important that they see this.”

Under a blue sky with foreboding rain clouds on the horizon, stood Henry Valdez, sweating from the 90-plus degree humidity.

He stood far from the small crowds of people that dotted Paredes Line Road up to the event center, the motorcade’s final destination.

“I came to pay my respects,” the former U.S. Marine said.

“So young, man. So young,” he said with a sigh.

“So young.”

Soon afterwards, the convoy of about 100 turned right onto Paredes Line Road from Ruben Torres Boulevard. Its final destination, less than a mile away, was now visible.

Catching sight of the convoy, which wound like a snake around the corner, Irahi Masso whispered to her young son, “Here he comes Brandon, raise the flag.”

He dutifully obeyed, raising a small American flag. It was a mirror image of the dozens of public safety officers parked across the street, holding full-size flags of their own.

In the middle of the motorcade of cars, trucks and motorcycles, was Menchaca’s body in a polished, black hearse, making its way past the Massos and Valdez. Other than the rumble of vehicles, it was quiet.

As the procession entered the center’s parking lot, it passed members of Brownsville American Legion Post 43 and other veterans.

Finally, with the emergency response vehicles that escorted the body finally dispersed, all that was left was the black hearse. It parked beneath the overhang at the center’s entrance.

The only sound as his flag-draped coffin was unloaded was water gurgling in a fountain between two palm trees. The ends of the yellow ribbons attached to the trees fluttered gently in the breeze.

Menchaca’s mother and other immediate family members waited at the Brownsville Event Center for his arrival, instead.

Menchaca will be buried in uniform and with several medals: America’s Meritorious Service Medal, a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and a Prisoner of War medal.

“He earned them, he goes down with them,” Ortiz said.

Thomas Tucker was similarly remembered in Oregon:

A park fence is adorned with memorial items in Madras, Oregon for slain U.S. Army Private First Class Thomas Lowell Tucker, who was killed in Iraq, June 23, 2006.

Funny how these stories weren’t covered by the AP or NYT.

  Update!

Our one party media has finally gotten around to this story. At least I think it is the same story.

From the DNC’s Associated Press:

Bishop At GI’s Funeral: Work For Peace

BROWNSVILLE, Texas, June 28, 2006(AP) The remains of a Texas soldier captured and brutalized in Iraq were buried Wednesday following a funeral Mass celebrated by a Catholic bishop and a dozen priests, and attended by hundreds of veterans, local residents and area dignitaries.

Pfc. Kristian Menchaca was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and a Prisoner of War medal.

Menchaca, 23, was one of three soldiers to die after a June 16 insurgent attack at the checkpoint they were guarding. He and another soldier, Pfc. Thomas Tucker of Madras, Oregon, went missing for three days before their mutilated and booby-trapped bodies were recovered. The third soldier, Spc. David J. Babineau, of Springfield, Massachusetts, died in the attack.

Diocese of Brownsville Bishop Raymundo Pena spoke during the bilingual Mass of Menchaca’s valor and sacrifice. Some of Menchaca’s relatives crossed the U.S.-Mexico border to be with his family. His mother, Maria Vasquez, was born in Mexico, and his family now lives largely in Brownsville.

“News reports about the circumstances of Kris’ death in Iraq could lead us to an unholy rage and anger, but that would only dishonor Kristian’s very name and Kristian himself,” Pena said. “ We must, as he did, reach for the ideal: to work for peace and an end to conflict wherever we may find it .” …

Thank goodness we have an objective press safeguarding our freedom.

I’d hate to think they had their own separate agenda.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, June 27th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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