October 23, 2004: Headlines: COS - Colombia: Congress: Obituaries: Iraq: Californian: "He represents the best and brightest of his generation," Sam Farr told the congregation

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Colombia: Special Report: Sam Farr: Sam Farr: Archived Stories: October 23, 2004: Headlines: COS - Colombia: Congress: Obituaries: Iraq: Californian: "He represents the best and brightest of his generation," Sam Farr told the congregation

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-141-157-21-111.balt.east.verizon.net - on Saturday, November 06, 2004 - 3:25 pm: Edit Post

"He represents the best and brightest of his generation," Sam Farr told the congregation

He represents the best and brightest of his generation, Sam Farr told the congregation

"He represents the best and brightest of his generation," Sam Farr told the congregation

A defender of a nation

The Salinas Californian

Caption: A Marine salutes Friday at a funeral for Victor Gonz·lez Avila at Pajaro Valley Memorial Park in Watsonville. Gonz·lez Avila was the first member of the military from Monterey County to die in the Iraq war. Photo RICHARD GREEN/THE SALINAS CALIFORNIAN

WATSONVILLE -- Long before the funeral Mass for her first born began, Amalia Avila stood by his remains, receiving condolences from hundreds of mourners who came to pay their respects Friday at St. Patrick's Church.

A few feet away lay Lance Cpl. Victor Gonz·lez ¡vila, the first member of the armed forces from Monterey County to die in the Iraq war.

Gonz·lez, who was born in Salinas and lived in Pajaro, was killed in combat at Al Albar province on Oct. 13, barely a month after he'd arrived in the war-torn country. He joined the Marine Corps last year after graduating from high school and spending 3 1/2 years as a police cadet with the Watsonville Police Department.

Gonz·lez's comrades carefully folded the American flag that draped his coffin before the religious ceremony began. A young girl had to be pried away from the Marine's casket, her body shaking uncontrollably with her sobbing.

The Rev. Greg Sandman conducted the ceremony in both Engish and Spanish.

"Although this is a religious ceremony, it is very much a celebration of our country." Sandman said, introducing U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, who presented the family with a flag that had been flown at half mast in the nation's capitol in Gonz·lez's honor.

"He represents the best and brightest of his generation," Farr told the congregation.

In his homily, Sandman pointed to a glass window that depicts Jesus' final hours.

"Jesus died on the cross to save us, but could Mary understand that?" Sandman asked in Spanish. "To me, she didn't understand, but she accepted it because that was God's will. Sometimes it's difficult to accept God's will, but if we have true faith, we can do it."

Sandman seemed to be addressing Gonz·lez family, his siblings who sat stone-faced, at times sobbing quietly.

In English, Sandman told younger members of the congregation that Gonz·lez had chosen to give his life for a cause greater than himself.

"He was willing to defend our nation and the community as a police officer," he said. "He knew the risk it involved, but in spite of it, he joined the Marines."

There's no greater gift than to lay down your life for somebody else, Sandman said.

After the service, dozens of cars followed the hearse through the streets of Watsonville toward Pajaro Valley Memorial Park, past a wall of students from Lakeview Elementary School and St. Francis High School who stood waving American flags and saluted in honor of Gonz·lez.

At the cemetery, Gonzalez's casket was carried from the hearse to his final resting place by six of his fellow Marines. His parents waited for him, his mother displaying the certificate she received from Farr and the U.S. government.

Hundreds of mourners -- relatives from Mexico, fellow police cadets and Marines, restless children and sorrowful grandmothers -- huddled around the casket after it was placed above the grave. A couple of girls handed out red, white and blue balloons, one or two escaping before it was time to let them go.

Once again, Sandman addressed the crowd in English and Spanish.

"We now commit this body to the grave, for we are dust, and to dust we shall return," he said.

Full military honors

Fallen in the line of duty, Gonz·lez was buried with full military honors. After the 21-gun salute, after Taps was played, and after the balloons were set free, dozens of mourners began to sob loudly.

The family then received the flag that draped their child's coffin and the Purple Heart, the highest military honor bestowed on members of the armed forces or civilians who are injured or killed in the line of duty.

While acquaintances and strangers laid roses on the Marine's casket, a Mariachi group played mournful songs bidding farewell to loved ones, a Mexican tradition brought to this country by Gonz·lez's parents.

"The day I die, I won't take anything with me," goes one of the songs. "We have to enjoy life, as it soon ends."

Elisa Torres, 70, lamented the death of Gonz·lez, who was the same age as her grandson Juan Diego Alvarez, also a Marine.

"Today it was him," she said in Spanish. "Who knows whose child is going to be next?"

Where does a mother find consolation at a time like this?

"In a lot of things," Amalia Avila said after her son had been lowered into the ground. "In knowing that my son is being honored and remembered like he deserved. I'm happy because what people did for him showed me that he was a good boy. I'm amazed at how much my son was loved, but he deserved it."

Contact Claudia MelÈndez at cmelendez@Salinas.gannett.com.

When this story was posted in November 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Your vote makes a difference Your vote makes a difference
Make a difference on November 2 - Vote. Then take our RPCV exit poll. See how RPCV's are voting and take a look at the RPCV voter demographic. Finally leave a message on why you voted for John Kerry or for George Bush. Previous poll results here.
Kerry reaches out to Returned Volunteers Kerry reaches out to Returned Volunteers
The Kerry campaign wants the RPCV vote. Read our interview with Dave Magnani, Massachusetts State Senator and Founder of "RPCVs for Kerry," and his answers to our questions about Kerry's plan to triple the size of the Peace Corps, should the next PC Director be an RPCV, and Safety and Security issues. Then read the "RPCVs for Kerry" statement of support and statements by Dr. Robert Pastor, Ambassador Parker Borg, and Paul Oostburg Sanz made at the "RPCVs for Kerry" Press Conference.

RPCV Carl Pope says the key to winning this election is not swaying undecided voters, but persuading those already willing to vote for your candidate to actually go to the polls.

Take our poll and tell us what you are doing to support your candidate.

Finally read our wrap-up of the eight RPCVs in Senate and House races around the country and where the candidates are in their races.

Director Gaddi Vasquez:  The PCOL Interview Director Gaddi Vasquez: The PCOL Interview
PCOL sits down for an extended interview with Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez. Read the entire interview from start to finish and we promise you will learn something about the Peace Corps you didn't know before.

Plus the debate continues over Safety and Security.
Schwarzenegger praises PC at Convention Schwarzenegger praises PC at Convention
Governor Schwarzenegger praised the Peace Corps at the Republican National Convention: "We're the America that sends out Peace Corps volunteers to teach village children." Schwarzenegger has previously acknowledged his debt to his father-in-law, Peace Corps Founding Director Sargent Shriver, for teaching him "the joy of public service" and Arnold is encouraging volunteerism by creating California Service Corps and tapping his wife, Maria Shriver, to lead it. Leave your comments and who can come up with the best Current Events Funny?
 Peace Corps: One of the Best Faces of America Peace Corps: One of the Best Faces of America
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and can you come up with a Political Funny?

Read the stories and leave your comments.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Californian

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Colombia; Congress; Obituaries; Iraq



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.