Monday, July 02, 2007

Frank Sandoval laid to rest

YUMA, Ariz. - Despite being gravely wounded in a roadside bomb blast that cost him a large portion of his skull, Sgt. Frank Michael Sandoval often spoke of his wish to return to Iraq to help his fellow soldiers.

"He always wanted to get better and go back," said his father, Ricky Sandoval. "I think that says so much about his courage."

Sandoval, 27, was laid to rest Thursday amid praise that he was an ideal soldier, a fun-loving family man and a person who never felt sorry for himself despite the severe traumatic brain injury he suffered in northern Iraq on Nov. 28, 2005.

In her eulogy, Brenda Sandoval recalled her younger brother's love of Superman comic books while growing up.

"Frank, you are and will forever be our Superman," she said.

Sandoval was pronounced brain dead June 18 when he failed to awaken from brain surgery at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs hospital. He was removed from a ventilator two days later, after his family made the decision to donate six of his organs.

Many Bay Area residents had come to feel as if they knew Frank and Michelle Sandoval personally after the couple agreed to allow a Mercury News reporter and photographer follow his recovery. The five-part series last December that chronicled his rehabilitation at the Palo Alto VA drew an overwhelming response from readers.

But in Yuma, a desert city of 90,000 on the borders of California and Mexico, Sandoval was the hometown hero. Yuma, which has a strong military presence with a Marine Corps Air Station and an Army artillery range, repeatedly had honored Sandoval for his sacrifice. He even threw out the first pitch at a spring training baseball game in March.
And after months of steady progress that included Sandoval walking by himself with a cane, his unexpected death was a hard blow.

An overflow crowd attended a public viewing for Sandoval on Wednesday night. Then it was standing-room only for the Thursday morning mass at Immaculate Conception Church, the parish where civil rights leader Cesar Chavez was baptized. Several hundred people followed the funeral procession to Desert Lawn Memorial Park to pay their final respects at the graveside despite the 110-degree heat.

They witnessed the somber symbols of mourning that have become all too familiar to the American public after more than four years of fighting in Iraq.

Sandoval's casket was draped in an American flag. It was accompanied by an honor guard from Sandoval's Fort Sill, Okla.-based unit - 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery, Bravo Battery.

After a 21-gun salute, the forlorn sound of "Taps" played by a lone bugler wavered in the hot breeze.

From the San Jose Mercury News

Related Link:
Frank M. Sandoval 'died June 18 in Palo Alto, Ca., of wounds sustained when his unit was attacked by insurgents using small arms fire Nov. 28, 2005'