Sunday, August 12, 2007

Eric Salinas laid to rest

HARLINGEN — The Rio Grande Valley buried one of its own Saturday amid the achingly familiar ceremony and circumstance of another young soldier returned home from war, never to leave home again.

Army Spc. Eric Domingo Salinas, 26, was killed Aug. 2 by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Iraq. Born in Harlingen and raised in Primera — where his grandmother still lives — Salinas was laid to rest here as family, friends and others mourned his passing and celebrated his too-short life.

“The one memory I will always have of my nephew is that he fought for something that none of us ever wanted to do,” said his aunt Gracie DeLeon.

DeLeon said she was grateful to everyone who attended the funeral — the military personnel, the Patriot Guard Riders, the law enforcement, and all the others — who may not have known her nephew but attended anyway.

Salinas’ mother, Juanita DeLeon, walked into Harlingen’s Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church with two men on each side of her, holding her.

“The reason his mom is taking this so hard is because he was the love of her life,” said Dolia DeLeon, another of Salinas’ aunts. “He was a great son. He was everything to her. …

“Everybody in the family was so proud of him,” she said. “Ever since he was a little kid, he wanted to be a soldier. He was always playing toy soldiers.”

Army Capt. Chris Franco served with Salinas in combat and came to the funeral to support the soldier’s family.

“Unfortunately we’ve lost a lot of soldiers,” he said of their unit. “We’ve pretty much been in some of the roughest places in Iraq.”

Although Franco didn’t spend time with Salinas on a personal level, he heard Salinas’ friends talk about how much the soldier loved his family and how proud he was to be in the military — and especially how proud he was to be a Texan.

“He was an ‘everything’s bigger in Texas’ type of guy,” Franco said.

As the 21-gun salute shots were fired and taps was played, many family members broke down crying.

Army Brig. Gen. James L. Terry presented Salinas’ parents with his awards, including the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.

But the young soldier’s mother appeared inconsolable.

As people lined up to place their red rose on the casket, she hugged it tightly, crying “Mijo” over and over until family members pulled her away and wrapped her in their embrace.

“He fulfilled his dream,” Dolia DeLeon said. “But he paid a sacrifice.”

From the Monitor

Related Link:
Eric D. Salinas dies 'of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'