Sunday, March 11, 2007

Anthony Aguirre laid to rest

Family members and friends of Lt. Cpl. Anthony Aguirre were not alone when they buried the fallen soldier on Wednesday. Hundreds of community members, veterans and students arrived at the Sterling-White Cemetery to honor a man they said was a true American hero.

Aguirre died on Feb. 26 while serving overseas as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The 20-year-old was raised in Channelview, where he attended school. Aguirre joined the Leadership Officer Training Corps at Alice Johnson Junior High School before going on to join the Channelview High School Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps. After graduating from high school, Aguirre joined the U.S. Marines.

While serving in Iraq, Aguirre stepped on an improvised explosive device, and made sure that everyone around him was out of danger before removing his foot from the land mine.

Members of the community who learned of Aguirre’s selfless act were touched by his bravery wanted to show their respect for the hero.

The Patriot Guard arrived on motorcycles to lead the procession, the Highlands Pilot Club passed out red roses, Houston Marines Inspector-Instructor staff honored the family with a 21-gun salute and flag ceremony. Members of the VVA Chapter 922, VFW Chapter 912, Crosby American Legion, JROTC and LOTC were also there to offer support.

“We wanted to show our honor for this young man,” said Jay Sanders, Vietnam Veterans of America treasurer and Sr. Vice Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Sanders, like many others attending Aguirre’s burial service, didn’t know the marine while he was alive, but he was inspired by his heroic death.

“He was a brave Marine,” said Sanders. “He had a belief in what he was doing.”

Pastor Richard Amador, Son Harvest Church, was also in attendance and glad to see the large number of community members who came out to honor the young man who lost his life in Iraq.

“He stepped on a landmine and waited for it be all clear before taking his foot off. No one got injured except for him,” said Amador. “That says that he cared about people.”

He said sacrifices like Aquirre’s are what the military and America is all about.

“Freedom isn’t free,” said Reanna Gautreaux, LOTC color guard commander. “We really do care that they’re fighting.

As members of the JROTC and LOTC flanked the cemetery road in preparation for the funeral procession, some of them talked about the man they still consider to be part of the family.

“We’re all part of the military,” said Troy Thompson, JROTC supply sergeant. “If one of us gets hurt, we all show remorse,” said Thompson.

Aguirre remained involved with the JROTC after graduation. The marine even returned to his alma mater to visit with some of the JROTC members before leaving for Iraq, Felicia Berguin, one of the JROTC directors.

She and her students wanted the marine’s family to know that they are there for them in their time of need, and grateful for the sacrifice Aguirre made.

“He gave his life for us to be able to be here to honor him,” said 1st Lt. Natalia Gonzalez. “He was a part of us at one time,” she said.

Members of the LOTC were also proud to be part of the service and show Aguirre’s family how much they care about the marine whose footsteps they are following in.

“He’s a hero,” said Hannah Nathaniel, LOTC. “He saved many lives and risked his own.”

David Caldera, LOTC director agreed that Aguirre deserved nothing less than a hero’s service.

“He’s a fallen LOTC and JROTC cadet. He’s part of our family,” said David Caldera, LOTC director. “This is the least we can do.”

Dustin Atwood, member of the Patriot Guard, is a former marine who wanted to ride in support of Aguirre, and make sure the soldier’s family saw how many people care about them and their son.

“I think it’s all about community support at the end of the day,” said Atwood.

Jim Cooper, Patriot Guard, agreed and said Americans need to stand up and support these individuals, who have lost loved ones in the war.

‘Those families made a major sacrifice,” said Cooper.

In an e-mail to community members, Aguirre’s sister Christina Castillo described how her brother spent his last moments protecting others.

Castillo said her brother’s battalion commander from Iraq called her Saturday to tell her about the sacrifice made by the marine.

“He informed me that he typically does not make these phone calls, but under my brother’s circumstances he felt honored to call,” said Castillo. She was told that when her brother stepped on the land mine, he did not release his foot until every soldier on that operation had been cleared. “Not a single soldier except my brother was hurt,” said Castillo. “He truly gave his life for others.”

From the Sun

Related Link:
Anthony Aguirre remembered

Related Link:
Anthony Aguirre reported killed in Iraq