Monday, July 09, 2007

Giann Carlo Joya Mendoza laid to rest

In life, Sgt. Giann Carlo Joya-Mendoza was a family man, peacemaker and dedicated soldier. In death, he became a hero.

His friends and family recalled him as a disciplined, rigorous man, meticulous in his personal habits and military service. Born on the Fourth of July in Honduras, he dreamed of making a career of the U.S. Army, enlisting at 20 and returning to war after his first stint was up.

A roadside bomb killed him as he patrolled South Baghdad on June 28; he was 27. He was buried Saturday with full military honors, posthumously given the medals and citizenship of a grateful nation.

"Giann Carlo decided that he would give up his life for something he believed in very strongly," said the Rev. Bob Garon, who eulogized Joya-Mendoza at a Catholic Mass on Friday. "He could have done anything else, but he chose to give his life for his country."

Soldiers in dress greens and family members in black filled the front of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in North Hollywood for the service.

A man dressed in camouflage-print shorts slipped in to sit at the back of the church. He'd come to say a prayer for his daughter, serving as a Marine in Iraq, and his son, a Navy Seal. As he saw the rows of uniformed soldiers and heard Garon's homily, he felt a connection.
"I didn't even know the soldier, but in my heart, I was crying," said the Valley Village resident, who asked to remain anonymous. "It was like he was part of my family."

While a soloist sang "America the Beautiful," the honor guard wheeled the coffin to the street as Maria Ines Mendoza, the soldier's mother, walked alongside. A young woman sobbed loudly in her pew, crying alone for the deceased.

Later Friday, at a visitation at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park, Sgt. Danny Winkler sat behind the family. He'd served in Joya-Mendoza's regiment in Korea and in Iraq and had come to pay his respects. Shoulders straight, head high, he mourned in silence for a few minutes, then rose and approached the coffin. He paused, laid his hand over the flag covering it and stepped away.

He'd escorted Joya-Mendoza's body home. Now, he slipped on his black beret and reflected on his dead comrade as he walked away.

"He was one of those guys who you say `What's up?' to when you saw him around," Winkler said. "But it doesn't really matter if I knew him well or not. We're all infantry and everyone in infantry is a brother."

For Winkler and the others touched by his story, Joya-Mendoza became a symbol of something greater. Councilwoman Wendy Greuel adjourned the Los Angeles City Council in his honor on Tuesday; Assemblyman Paul Krekorian, D-Glendale, plans to do the same with the Assembly on Monday; and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered flags flown at half-staff in tribute.

The Pentagon dispatched Maj. Gen. Paul Izzo to personally present Joya-Mendoza's parents with the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Iraqi Campaign Medal and Global War on Terror Medal on Saturday. A representative from the Department of Homeland Security then delivered a proclamation that their son had been made a citizen of the country he died defending.

"I told him it was dangerous, but he wanted to be a soldier," said his father, Juan Anibal Joya-Mendoza. "He was very disciplined, so it was good for him. As a father, I respected his decision."

As the funeral closed, workers lowered the silver casket into the ground. Mendoza, wearing the Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division's insignia pinned to her black blouse, approached the grave with a ceremonial trowel filled with dirt. She hesitated and cried, then let the dirt fall into the Earth.

Her son's fellow soldiers snapped to attention and offered crisp salutes.

From the LA Daily News

Related Link:
Giann Carlo Joya-Mendoza remembered

Related Link:
Giann C. Joya Mendoza dies 'of wounds sustained when his unit was attacked in Baghdad by insurgents using improvised explosive devices'