A standing room only crowd of family, friends, veterans and a police honor guard gathered on Memorial Day to pay honor to Mission’s sons who lost their lives in Iraq or Afghanistan. They filled Leo Peña Placita Park nestled in the heart of downtown Mission to hear words of remembrance, gratitude and honor.
A 21-gun salute was presented by Mission’s CWV Post 1065, followed by “Taps,” in honor of U.S. Army Sgt. Javier Marin Jr., Staff Sgt. Omar Flores, Cpl. Jose A. Rubio, Spc. Alex Daniel Gonzalez, SSG Bradley Espinoza and PFC Diego Montoya.
Another Mission war hero was honored, Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Jose A. Lopez. Members of his family were present as a statue honoring the WWII hero was unveiled by State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa and members of the A.C.E. Club. Maggie Wickwire, daughter of Lopez, and Betty de los Santos, niece, were among the small crowd of family members present.
The ACE Club commissioned the statue to be created by sculptor Douglas Clark.
Sen. Hinojosa, who served in the Marines in Vietnam, spoke of the traditions of those who have answered the call of duty to defend the nation’s freedom.
“We enjoy this life because there were people who were willing to die” for freedom in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. “In this world there are evil people, evil countries who want to destroy us, but we are not afraid.
“As a community, we have Democrats, we have Republicans, we have Tea Party, Libertarians, Independents. We may all debate issues, but when it comes to defending our country, we are one family. We are one country and willing to fight and die for our liberty.”
Rosie Peña Guerra, mother of PFC Diego Montoya, who was killed in Afghanistan on Sept. 2, 2010, spoke, also.
“I think one of the most common questions that the mother of a fallen soldier gets is, ‘How do you do it?’” she said. “For us mothers, Memorial Day is every day.”
The crowd was moved as she shared a poem she wrote, entitled “The Boy in 34 G.”
“This poem, yes, is about my son and what happened to us and the way it was, but it could be any mother reading the same words,” she said.
The poem is called “The Boy in 34G,” she said, because her son’s tombstone has a number and a lettermark – 34G. She recited the words of the poem about the loss of her son as family members of Mission’s other fallen sons stood next to her – remembering their own sons, brothers and husbands who will never come home.
Following her recitation, as those gathered to honor those soldiers who died on the battlefield watched in reverent silence, Sen. Hinojosa rose up and gave Guerra a comforting embrace that seemed to say for all those present, “I understand your grief.”
Before offering the benediction, Rev.Roy Snipes, of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, shared the Texas A&M tradition called the “Aggie Muster” where the names of fallen comrades are called out, “and one of us answers, ‘Here,’ to signify that they are not only alive with God in heaven, but they are alive in our hearts as we remember them.”
Poem by Rosie Peña Guerra, mother of U.S. Army PFC Diego Montoya, who was killed in Afghanistan on Sept. 2, 2010.
This poem was recited by Rosie Guerra at the Memorial Day observance on May 28, 2012 at Leo Peña Placita Park in Mission. It is entitled, “The Boy in 34G.”
The Boy in 34G
By Rosie Peña Guerra
There’s a boy in 34G,
A hero lives there you see.
To you I want to tell,
A story I know so well,
Of how he came to be
the boy in 34g.
To his country he’d pledge his allegiance,
everyday at school.
Those words had become so real to him,
he realized then what he had to do.
The boy in 34G.
Came time for his graduation,
and with a sense of obligation,
proceeded to join the fight,
for our country, its freedom, and those things that are right,
felt the boy in 34G.
“ENDURING FREEDOM” was name of the OPERATION.
“It’s where I’m going, Mom, to serve my nation”.
To a land far away he went,
to Afghanistan he was being sent.
The boy in 34G.
One day the dreaded news arrived,
of how Private Diego Montoya had died.
In grief, pain and sorrow his mother cried,
for her boy in 34G.
September 2, I won’t ever forget.
“We’ve come to inform you
with much deep regret”.
“There’s been a mistake!”
my voice in a shout!
“His dog tags were checked, ma’am”.
“We’re sure, there’s no doubt.”
And so it was he would be,
The boy in 34G.
To Dover his casket they flew,
draped in Old Glory, the red, white and blue.
These colors don’t run,
And neither did he,
this soldier, a hero, my son,
My boy in 34G.
There’s nothing a mother won’t do for her own.
I would escort him home, I would do it alone.
My Lord gave me strength, and courage and pride.
From Dover we left in God’s morning light.
Just me and my boy
now in 34G.
In Mission, his hometown, we laid him to rest,
where all those around him, are also the best!
A number and letter mark each grave,
for the soldiers and heroes who everything gave.
They are especially marked for only the brave.
The lines and rows will go on forever,
We should make it our cause to forget them, NEVER!
24 A, or 19 B,
They all did their part so we can be free,
Courage and valor describe him the best!
Courage and valor describe all the rest.
Let’s not forget what these brave soldiers have done,
Like Private Diego Montoya, America’s son.
They laid down their lives,
We will always be free,
As did my boy in 34G.
You’ve now heard my story,
how it came to unfold,
of my third-born, my son, my twenty year-old,
Your hero, God’s son,
my boy in 34G.