Saturday, June 09, 2007

Michael Jaurigue laid to rest

TEXAS CITY — No matter which store you entered, not a flag could be found. People lined the roads and the freeway for miles to honor Army Spc. Michael James Jaurigue, who was laid to rest Friday.

Jaurigue was remembered for being the true definition of a hero. The 20-year-old Texas City native was killed May 26 by a homemade bomb in Iraq.

During the funeral service at St. Mary’s of the Miraculous Medal Catholic Church, Jaurigue was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

In the church’s loft overlooking the service, several of Jaurigue’s schoolmates had gathered to say goodbye to their fallen friend.

Among those watching the service from on high was Matthew Warren.

At first glance, he looked as if he, too, was an old school chum, but his connection to Jaurigue was more special than that.

Warren was Jaurigue’s best friend from within his platoon in Iraq. The two met just before they were deployed to the war zone and hit it off right away.

“He was the rock of our platoon,” said Warren, who broke down and cried during the service. “We will miss his goofy laugh.”

That laugh was what helped break the monotony that marks service in a war zone, said Warren.

Among the platoon, Jaurigue was nicknamed “J-Money.”

Why? “Because he was a tight wad; he never spent any money,” Warren said while breaking a rare smile on a tough day.

The fellow private received permission from his commander to fly to Texas for his brother soldier’s funeral. On Sunday he returns to the war with a heavy heart, but a new resolve for his mission.

Jaurigue’s casket was carried from the church to the cemetery on the back of a Texas City fire truck, led by more than 300 members of the Patriot Guard. In a procession that stretched for more than five miles, he was carried to his final resting place.

Thousands of people lined the roads, holding up American flags and signs of thanks, and shedding plenty of tears along the way. They also lined overpasses along the route, sometimes in groups, at times a solitary figure simply holding a flag and standing at attention.

Perhaps no sight was more striking than in front of BP’s Texas City office building, where hundreds of the petrochemical facility’s workers lined both sides of Palmer Highway as Jaurigue’s body passed by.

At Forrest Park East Cemetery, the crowd grew. The official military honor guard was joined by members of the Dickinson VFW post’s honor guard.

At one point, an elderly member of that VFW honor guard fell out, overcome by the warm temperatures. Members of the Texas City fire department, on hand to bring Jaurigue’s casket to the gravesite, quickly attended to the man, who soon was reported to be in good condition after being taken to an air-conditioned room.

Even with the commotion behind him, the military chaplain did not miss a beat and read aloud Psalm 23, also known as the soldier’s Psalm.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me,” the clearly emotional chaplain read aloud.

That was followed by a 21-gun salute provided by the 82nd Airborne honor guard and then the playing of Taps by Staff Sgt. Brian DeBold.

As the crowd dispersed, Jaurigue’s family greeted all those who had come to honor the fallen soldier. His mother, Juana Nico, held tight to the U.S. flag that had draped his coffin and now was folded neatly into a triangle of blue with white stars.

Jaurigue was the eighth Galveston County resident killed in Iraq and one of three Fort Bragg, N.C., soldiers who died in the explosion in Salahuddin province.

From the Galveston Daily News

Related Link:
Michael J. Jaurigue dies of 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'