Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Mark Caguioa laid to rest

LODI - For putting his life on the line as an American soldier in Iraq, President Bush called Army Spc. Mark Ryan Climaco Caguioa of Stockton a hero.

His family, however, said the man they remember as fun-loving, romantic and a "stand-up guy" was heroic for another reason: his final three weeks of survival.

"We know Mark was a hero. But (the family) doesn't believe that what he did in combat or in the Army made him a hero. Coming home to us was heroic," said Maria "Blanquita" Climaco, the soldier's aunt. "He should not have survived his injuries. But he did. He used all his strength to come back for us, to be our hero."

In a May 4 attack in Baghdad, Caguioa, 21, lost both his legs and left arm after a roadside bomb explosion. His family said his trip back to the United States, to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., was due to his miraculous strength. He struggled to stay alive at the medical center until May 17, long enough for his family to see him one last time.

While at the hospital, Bush visited. He sat next to Caguioa and his family and called him a hero.

About 100 family members, friends and some strangers attended Caguioa's 10 a.m. funeral service at the Lodi Funeral Home, where 12 American flags flew in the front lawn on Saturday.

Fewer than 10 miles away, at Lodi's Grape Bowl stadium, Caguioa's former high school, Bear Creek High, held its 2007 graduation ceremony at the same 10 a.m. starting time.

Bear Creek Principal Daryl Camp said a number of campus clubs at the high school, where the soldier was a senior in 2003, have dedicated some money toward honoring Caguioa on campus - possibly with a bench holding a plaque.

Caguioa's fiance, 21-year-old Megan McComms of Texas, said she never saw herself dating an enlisted man. But Caguioa was different.

"He really taught me something I couldn't understand before - the reason a person goes into the Army," McComms said, without going into specifics on why her fiance enlisted. "He also taught me how to appreciate the sunset at my family's Texas home. I took it for granted before, since I grew up seeing it every day. But he showed me how romantic it actually is. I'll never look at the Texas sunset the same way again."

From the Stockton Record

Related Link:
Mark R. C. Caguioa dies at Bethesda 'of wounds suffered on May 4 in Baghdad, Iraq, when the vehicle he was in struck an improvised explosive device'