Saturday, June 09, 2007

Victor Toledo Pulido laid to rest

A Hanford soldier who died in Iraq nearly two weeks ago was laid to rest Tuesday in Kings County.

Nearly 200 people turned out at the Grangeville Cemetery in Armona to honor Cpl. Victor Hugo Toledo Pulido, 22, who died from injuries sustained during a roadside bomb explosion May 23.

Pulido had only been in Iraq for two months before his death.

Also killed in the same attack was Cpl. Jonathan D. Winterbottom, 21, of Falls Church, Va.

"Mr. Pulido gave his life ... to protect our way of life," said Brig. Gen. John McMahon, delivering a statement on behalf of the U.S. Army at the graveside.

Pulido's family and friends, along with a slew of reporters, crowded around a simple chestnut-colored coffin.

The smell of freshly cut grass wafted through the breeze. A lone bugle sounded the 24 mournful notes of taps as a color guard expertly folded the American flag that draped the casket.

Flanked by relatives, Pulido's wife sat rocking herself, dissolving into quiet sobs when the guard handed her the flag, now tightly folded into a triangle.

Her infant son slept soundly in the arms of Paz Gaspar, Pulido's stepfather, not even stirring when the color guard gave the traditional 21-gun salute.

Mourners remembered Pulido for his sense of mischief and fun, and his complete devotion to his family.

"His family, his wife Christi, and his son Isak meant everything to him," said the Rev. Douglas Spencer. "All of his family was the source of his greatest happiness."

Niece Mirivi McGee said the last time she saw her uncle was at the family's annual Christmas celebration.

"He was a really cool uncle. He used to play all kinds of games," she said with a smile. "He was a big trouble maker."

Mirivi is the daughter of Pulido's sister, Maria McGee.

Pulido was born in Colima, Mexico, on Feb. 3 1985, to Maria Gaspar and Gaston Toledo, who are now divorced. Toledo currently resides in Jalisco, Mexico.

When Pulido was 7 years old, his mother moved him and his three siblings - Gaston, Josio and Maria - to Kettleman City.

Although he was never naturalized, Pulido was a legal resident of the United States.

At age 15, he met his first and only love, Christi Aguilar, who was 13 at the time.

You knew it was love, joked the minister during the service, "because the initial phone bill was over $400."

The couple welcomed their son, Isak, a year and a half ago, and wed in December of 2006.

In a bid to forge his own path in the world, Pulido joined the National Guard, but harbored dreams of a career in the regular Army, said Dan Phelps, a training officer with the local Guard unit.

Last fall, Phelps processed the extensive paper work necessary for Pulido to join the regular Army.

"I was so sorry to see him leave the unit and go into the regular Army," said Phelps. "It seems like just yesterday. It seemed like he was here just a few months ago - and he was."

Phelps said Pulido never expressed any fear or anxiety about the possibility of being sent to a combat zone, said those who knew him.

"He wasn't scared. He wasn't overly concerned," said Phelps. "He was looking forward to making a career out of the regular Army.

With the ceremony drawn to a close, Pulido's mother said she could not even speak of the pain of watching her son receive his final salute.

"He left loving this country, and I want to say something, that people recognize that we Mexicans love this country too as we love Mexico," Gaspar, the mother, said in Spanish, tightly holding onto her son-in-law's hand, as though she might fall.

Asked if she was going to petition the U.S. government to grant her son posthumous citizenship, Gaston said her son deserved as much.

"He gave his life for this country even though he was not an American citizen. ... He was still a Mexican citizen who loved this country and left loving this country," said the mother. "I think he deserves the best and all the respect."

From the Hanford Sentinel

Related Link:
Victor Toledo Pulido remembered

Related Link:
Victor H. Toledo Pulido dies of 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'