Saturday, February 03, 2007

Luis J. Castillo laid to rest

The Portage woman didn't know Lance Cpl. Luis Jose Castillo or his family. She came as an anonymous "Army mom," compelled to attend services Tuesday that celebrated Castillo's life and mourned his death.

"I just came as an Army mom. If it was my kid, I'd want the support. I can't imagine what this must be like for his mother," she said tearfully, declining to be named.

An estimated 700 people -- Castillo's family, military personnel, veterans of other wars and even strangers such as the Portage mother -- filled St. Catherine of Siena Church in Portage to pay tribute to the Marine who died 11 days ago in Iraq.

Along the funeral procession, from Portage to the burial site in Mattawan, small pockets of people stood here and there in 20-degree temperatures, blustery wind and blowing snow, hoisting their flags on the roadside.

Along with the family's loss, "everyone that wears a uniform definitely shares in that grief," said Lt. Col. Mindy Herrmann, of the 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment. Castillo was part of the Lansing battalion's Charlie Company.

The 20-year-old Lawton resident died on Jan. 20, wounded by small-arms fire while patrolling in al-Anbar Province.

He'd been deployed just four months earlier.

The outpouring of support has heartened the family.

"It made us feel really good that we were supported by a lot of people," said Rosemary Suarez, Castillo's sister-in-law.

"... Everybody pretty much saw him as a hero, as an inspirational young man," she said.

Born in Nezahualcoyolt, Mexico, in February 1986, Castillo emigrated with his family to Chicago and eventually Southwest Michigan.

His mother, Raquel Garcia, wanted her children to experience a better life than what they had known in Nezahualcoyolt, according to the funeral program.

Family members said Castillo thrived here in friendships, in sports such as soccer and wrestling and in academics, graduating with honors from Mattawan High School in 2004.

Joining the Marines and eventually becoming a police officer were Castillo's long-time dreams.

But, above all, it was family that had his heart.

When he was deployed last fall, "it was difficult for him to leave his family because we're really a united family," his sister Pilar Castillo said prior to Tuesday's funeral.

"He was always there for me, my best friend," she said.

The Rev. Bob Flickinger, of Hartford's Immaculate Conception Parish, which Castillo attended as a boy, told the congregants Tuesday that although Castillo's life was brief, "he lived to its fullness."

Flickinger, who gave the homily and prayers in both Spanish and English, suggested Castillo might tell them that nothing could change what happened to him, "No puedo cambiar lo que me paso a mi."

Now it's up to them to take care of one another, "Cuidense unos a otros."

Castillo was preceded in death by his father, Uvaldo Castillo, in 1992, and a brother, Carlos Suarez, in 1970.

In addition to his mother and his sisters, Pilar Castillo and Jazmin Garcia, Castillo also is survived by his brother, Juan Suarez, several nieces, a nephew and many other family members.

From the Gazette

Related Link:
Luis J. Castillo remembered

Related Link:
Luis J. Castillo slain by sniper