Remembering a fallen Marine
EAGLE ” “Taps” rang through the trees of Sunset View Cemetery Friday morning, mingling with the echoes of 21-gun salutes and the final words spoken to Lance Cpl. Evenor Herrera.
To the beating rotors of three helicopters passing overhead, six Marines folded the American flag for Herrera’s family. “Please accept this on behalf of a grateful nation,” a Marine said as she presented the American flag to Herrera’s mother, Blanca Stibbs.
“I just want to tell you my son that I did not suffer because you are still in my heart,” Stibbs said. “We’ll meet again.”
Herrera, 22, was laid to rest nine days after dying of injuries suffered when a bomb explosion during combat near Ar Ramadi, Iraq.
The ceremony began Friday morning with a procession from United Methodist Church in Eagle and ended at the cemetery four blocks away. The procession was led by Veterans of Foreign Wars members with flags raised and firearms shouldered.
Behind the VFW, Herrera’s body traveled by hearse, followed by the six Marine pallbearers. The silent procession, four or more abreast, stretched nearly a block. The black-clad followers carried roses or flower bouquets.
A woman stood beside an intersection blocked by police cars and fire trucks, her hand over her heart and her body heaving with sobs.
At the cemetery, more than 20 family members and friends stepped before the casket to address Herrera and the attendants.
“My brother, he was a brave man who was not scared fighting over there,” Balmore Herrera said about his brother. “There are no regrets. I’ll see you at the other side.”
Herrera’s grandmother, Maria Del Carmen Pereira, asked the U.S. government to reevaluate its role in Iraq considering the number of deaths due to the war.
“I pray for them to think it over,” she said in Spanish.
The final family member to speak, David Stibbs, said it was hard to accept his stepson’s death. “I wanted to hate those people but I asked the lord to forgive those people who planted that bomb,” he said.
“I accept this now because he is not dead,” he said. “He lives on in my heart.”
Joe Morales, head of Colorado public safety, attended the funeral on behalf of Gov. Bill Owens. In a letter from the governor, Morales told Blanca Stibbs her son had chosen the highest calling and had earned a place among heroes. In a show of the state’s appreciation, Morales presented Blanca Stibbs with a Colorado flag from the capitol.
The single roses many carried to the cemetery were thrown atop the casket. Balmore Herrera, in full uniform, tossed a drill instructor’s hat amongst the flowers.
Walking down the gravel road away from Evenor Herrera, fellow platoon member and pallbearer Cpl. Scott Kinser paused to consider his fellow Marine.
“After I heard it happened, I asked to come (to the funeral),” he said. “I felt like I owed it to him. After five months of hanging out with everybody, you become more than friends.”
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