Saturday, February 24, 2007

James Tijerina laid to rest

A Katy Marine was honored as a hometown hero by family, friends, and strangers who lined the streets waving American flags after his funeral service Saturday.

Sgt. James R. Tijerina, 26, became the sixth member of the military from the Katy area to die in the war when his CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter crashed in Iraq on Feb. 7.

He was remembered as a caring person who loved God, his country, friends and family by those who gathered Saturday morning at Katy's Epiphany of the Lord Catholic Community to pay their last respects.

The pieces of his life, from the smiling newborn and then the Katy High School football player to standing proud in his Marine uniform, were vividly displayed during the service a few feet away from his flag-draped casket.

Clowie Latoy Tijerina, his wife, wept through much of closed-casket funeral, sitting beside her parents and near Tijerina's parents in the church that her husband had attended as a youth.

"I spoke with him about 10 days before he died," said Tijerina's uncle, Felipe Tijerina. "He was looking forward to coming home."

Tijerina was scheduled to return to Camp Pendleton near San Diego on March 20 and was planning a larger, more formal wedding ceremony than the one he and his wife had last year.

Among the hundreds who came to pay their respects was Sgt. Miles P. Wilson, a close friend.

"Away from work, J.R. and I would often venture to Joshua Tree National Park where he would search high and low to catch every rattle snake he could find," said Wilson, 22, in his eulogy. "There was also Yosemite National Park where we hiked to the top of Half Dome and watched an ugly storm roll over the Sierra Nevada."

Wilson said Tijerina was a gifted athlete who was motivated to achieve and he helped others by setting a good example.

A 1997 graduate of Katy High School,, he was on the football team when the Tigers won the state championship that year. Last Christmas Eve, he placed first in a 5-K race at Camp Taqaddum among 250 troops, with a time of 18 minutes and 46 seconds.

Rev. Monsignor Jack Dinkins, who presided over the ceremony, said a poem Tijerina wrote expressed how he interpreted life and revealed all he was trying to be in life.

"It's about his beliefs, faith in America as a great nation and ideals of freedom," Dinkins said. "For a young man to have these thoughts about his country is remarkable."

Tijerina, who joined the Marines in 2002, had reenlisted for another five years.

After his comments, Dinkins asked that Tijerina be given a standing ovation.

"J.R. not only gave his life to his country," he said, "he gave his life to the people in Iraq."

Peoples lined the route from the church to Highland Knolls Boulevard waving American flags as the funeral procession drove beneath an American flag and a Texas flag hanging from the ladder trucks of the Katy and West I-10 fire departments. Some held a large colorful banner with "We Love our Tiger Hero" written on it.

Tijerina is survived by his wife, his mother and stepfather Lilia and William R. Carr, his father, Peter Tijerina and numerous other family members.

He was laid to rest at Forest Park Westheimer Cemetery in Houston.

From the Chronicle

Related Link:
James R. Tijerina killed in helicopter crash