Will Weissert, AP, HoustonChronicle.com, Jul. 5
SAN LUIS DE LA PAZ, Mexico—Mexican soldiers carrying automatic weapons interrupted the U.S. Independence Day funeral of a U.S. Marine and demanded that the Marine honor guard give up ceremonial replicas of rifles they carried.
Hundreds of friends and relatives packed a small cemetery for the funeral on Sunday of 22-year-old Juan Lopez, who was born in this sun-scorched farming town, immigrated to Dalton, Georgia, as a teenager and became a Marine.
He was killed in an ambush in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, on June 21.
Maj. Curt Gwilliam presented an American flag to Lopez’s widow, Sandra Torres, who clutched a bouquet of yellow and white flowers while tears streamed down her face.
While the funeral demonstrated the close human ties of Mexico and the United States, problems began moments after the start—leading to an expression of outrage by the U.S. ambassador.
Four U.S. Marines marched solemnly to the grave carrying an American flag and the colors of the Marine Corps. Two of the men had rifles that looked real, but could not be fired, strapped to their backs.
Four Mexican soldiers blocked their path, asking the four Marines and six others who had served as pallbearers to return to the car that had brought them to the funeral. Several minutes of discussions by soldiers from both countries continued until a trumpet player began a rendition of taps and the funeral continued, despite the objections of the Mexican troops.
When the ceremony was complete, all the Marines on hand returned to a U.S. Embassy vehicle and waited. Fourteen Mexican soldiers arrived to guard the premises. About 40 minutes later, apparently under orders from a superior officer, the Mexican soldiers allowed the van to leave.
“I’m outraged that this would take away from the ceremony honoring U.S. Marine Juan Lopez Rangel, whose family requested he be buried in his town of birth with full military honors,” U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza said in a prepared statement.
A long-ago generation of Marines played a part in Mexico’s deep suspicion of any foreign military force on its territory. The Marine Hymn’s “Halls of Montezuma” refers to the 1847 capture of Mexico City.
The Mexican Defense Department banned plans for a 21-gun salute by Marines because Mexico’s Constitution bans foreign soldiers from carrying firearms here.
Mexican soldiers at the funeral refused to comment, but U.S. Embassy spokesman Jim Dickmeyer said they likely saw the rifle replicas and mistakenly thought the Marines were planning to fire a salute anyway.
“These are ceremonial weapons,” Dickmeyer said. “We were told not to bring M-16s, we didn’t bring M-16s. We were told not to fire in the air, we didn’t fire in the air.”
Lopez’s cousin, Octavio Lopez, called the interruption “a big mistake.”
“If carrying these rifles was part of the ceremony, a ceremony the family wanted, how could it have been anything but positive?” he asked.
When U.S. Marines loaded Lopez’s gray coffin onto a hearse earlier in the afternoon, a swell of local residents poured through the street and marched with the Lopez family past shabby brick s.
A mariachi band dressed in green sang, “Goodbye for ever, goodbye.” The music never sped during a somber 45-minute march across town.
As church services began, about 300 people who could not fit inside listened over loudspeakers and sang along.
An hour later, several hundred people marched about a kilometer (a half mile) to the ceremony to watch as Lopez’s gray coffin was lowered into the ground.
Even many of those who marched in Lopez’s honor were not shy about voicing their opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
“For a Mexican to go and die for a country that wasn’t his own, it’s too tragic,” said Marciana Camacho, who runs a convenience store a block from the where Lopez’s wife lived with his parents. “Iraq is so far away from our little town. It doesn’t make sense.”
Lopez met his wife in Dalton and the couple married in San Luis de la Paz in December. Earlier in the day, Oscar E. Lujan, attache for U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services at the embassy in Mexico City, presented her with Lopez’s American citizenship, which he earned following his death.
Comments from Readers
“Even many of those who marched in Lopez’s honor were not shy about voicing their opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
‘For a Mexican to go and die for a country that wasn’t his own, it’s too tragic,’ said Marciana Camacho, who runs a convenience store a block from the where Lopez’s wife lived with his parents. ‘Iraq is so far away from our little town. It doesn’t make sense.'”
This is repulsive. If Mexico was his country, why was he not in Mexico? He had apparently been in the U.S. since he was a teenager. I’m tired of hearing about how tragic it is for minorities to go off and fight. Apparently white men are responsible for protecting their freedom. Protecting one’s freedom is an individual responsibility as well as a group effort, and if immigrants want the benefits, they have to be willing to work for it. It’s this type of mentality that has kept non-whites (excluding Asians, of course) from ever being a true power or developing worthwhile cultures of their own.
From: Bunkered Down on the East Coast
So our jobs, resources, money, women, cars, etc. are ripe for the taking but it’s not their country?
Please, for all we’ve given them (and all they’ve managed to run off with) we should reinstitute the draft and put their numbers first.
This is a prime example of the problem of dealing with small minded people like hispanics and blacks. They just can’t seem to think outside of their small personal environment. Therefore, they will say stuff like, “Them little yellow people never did nothing to me. I don’t see why I’m supposed to go over and kill em.” So, they will dishonor the military funeral service of one who has made the ultimate sacrifice for the country that stands for freedom and not even have a clue.
From: Lt. Col. Cheveaux
“This is a prime example of the problem of dealing with small minded people like hispanics and blacks. They just can’t seem to think outside of their small personal environment.”
Yeah, so small minded they’re in Iraq dying for you-who’s patriotism and selflessness are showcased in your daring typing, and sniper like commentary. When you read an article about someone who has sacrificed their life on your behalf, and all you can come up with is negative statements against their family-who are probably lashing out because of their understandable grief-, then sir, you have crossed the line from rational racialist to despicable racist. I seem to recall quite a few war protesters during the Vietnam war, and the current conflict, who expressed similar opinions to that of the dead Marines family, and they were white. In fact, the two soldiers who publiclly called for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld, on the grounds of treason, during the opening salvos of the Iraq war were white. Are their actions reflective of the mind-set of the rest of the white race? No. Sir, There may be times to point out behavioral differences between the races, but your comments on the occassion of the bereavment of a fallen US soldier belie the decency of our race.
With all due respect sir. Those Negroes and whites are not dying for me-they are dying for Politicians that want to shove multiculturalism down our throats and destroy-degenerate the empire from within. They are dying for MTV, the NBA and “girls gone wild”.
There is inherent nobility in the solider but his cause and his leaders are another matter entirely.
From: M. Scott
The guy lived here and ended up helping pay the nation’s petroleum bar tab. Nobody’s critizing the dead marine, Lt. Colonel. He evidently thought he was doing something worthwhile when he enlisted.
As for his “death fighting for a foreign country,” that’s poppycock, and the other posters were right to criticize the remark. Most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, who want US troops out of Saudi Arabia. The US presence in that country was primarily to protect it from Saddam’s army. In order to withdraw from Saudi Arabia and thereby lower the level of international terrorism – which is bad, bad, bad for the whole world’s economy – the threat to Saudi Arabia needed to be eliminated. The US and allies eliminated that threat. This marine died to make the world a marginally safer, more economically stable place. Increased global prosperity will also benefit poor, dusty towns in Mexico.
To: Lt. Col. Cheveaux
Sorry not to have gotten back to you sooner. I assume that you are serving or have served in one of the branches of the armed services of the United States of America. This being the case, I would think that you would be aware that joining the military service is a well worn trail that many Hispanics have walked to get their American citizenship. Many other people have walked equally dangerous trails to get this all important prize. I imagine a lot of those Hispanics serving over in Iraq are questioning their decision making process. While not wanting to denigrate the brave Hispanics serving now, speaking from experience, I would have severe reservations about having just any Hispanic in my foxhole watching my back.