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El Paso, TX - Carlsbad, NM

Wednesday, 24 May
At about 1100 a hearse and a few family members appear on the tarmac at El Paso International Airport. Quietly and from nowhere rows of veterans began to appear and surround the family. With the family was the familiar dress blue uniform of a Marine. A Marine from N Battery, 5th Bn, 14th Mar, El Paso, TX. Beside him the red jacket of a member of Marine Corps League Detachment, Carlsbad, NM. A lone casket appeared at the door of the aircraft and is gently lowered. Someone called "Present Arms" and all present saluted smartly. Lance Corporal Andres Garcia, United States Marine Corps, MIA 15 May 1975 was coming home.

At about 1130 hours a motorcade formed behind the white GMC Suburban that would head the procession and transport LCpl Garcia home. A 160 mile trek from El Paso, TX to Carlsbad, NM. Car after car closed in behind the Suburban. As they pulled out of the cargo area, an escort of El Paso Police led the way, joined by Texas State Police and the U. S. Border Patrol, all with emergency lights flashing. Still more vehicles joined the procession. Every car flying a small U S Flag or Marine Corps Colors from their antenna.

One hundred thirty miles to the Texas - New Mexico state line. The convoy began to slow to a near walk. All Texas police escorts proceeded to the head of the line and pulled off the highway. One by one, the troopers exited their vehicles and saluted as the convoy continued on into New Mexico. Now joined by New Mexico State Troopers, U. S. Forestry Service, U. S. Border Patrol, the city of Carlsbad Police and many more cars for the final 30 miles.

Arriving in Carlsbad, traveling through this town of about 25,000 traffic stopped, drivers pulled off the city streets, children and parents along the route stopped and placed their hand over their heart. Old men and young men removed their hats.

Friday, 26 May
At about 1845 MCL Dept of New Mexico, and MCL Carlsbad Det posted Colors. At 1900 the service began.

Throughout the service, many people stood to say a few words about "Andy." Some were family, cousins, brothers. Many went to school with hi Several teenagers stood and told how they had been named after Andres.

A bootcamp buddy of LCpl Garcia's had flown in from Seattle. They were in BLT 2/9 together and in the same rescue team. That fatal team when LCpl Garcia's helo was shot down and he became an MIA. As he left the dais, he paused beside the flag draped casket. Deliberately and slowly he removed the MIA bracelet he'd been wearing for 25 years.

MCL red jackets dot one corner of the chapel. Among them is a young 19 year old Marine Lance Corporal in dress blues. LCpl Sanchez, a reserve of Amarillo, Texas. Did he know the Garcia family? Was he a relative? "No. I didn't know him. I saw it in the paper and just came because he's a Marine."

MCL NM Commandant Jimenez presented Mrs. Garcia with a highly polished cedar box containing a leather bound bible, engraved in gold with "Lance Corporal Andres Garcia, USMC"

Saturday, 27 May
The Marine Honor Guard from N 5/14 El Paso arrive at the 1st Baptist Church in Carlsbad . Commanded by Capt W. Gates with 1stSgt Balczo. Inside the Church are some 400 people plus. There is an overflow outside the church and it is standing room only for the hour long service.

As the Marine Honor Guard forms, and Marine Pall bearers escort the casket outside, the temperature nears 100 degrees. The motorcade weaves through town away from the main highway. People come to their doors and stand. A mother and her daughter stand at the corner. The little girl has her hand over her heart as her ice cream cone melts in her left hand. Little children playing under a shade tree stop riding their bicycles and stand silently. One boy snaps a salute.

There is a traffic jam at the cemetery. There are so many in attendance that cars begin to double park along the road.

A lone Marine stands at attention at the foot of the grave as the family and hearse arrives. The Honor Guard pall bearers quietly execute every move with deliberate precision as the gently handle the flag draped casket. A lane is formed from curbside to grave side by an estimated 15 different Color Guards of veterans organizations from all over the state.

As the pall bearers depart only the Captain and 1st Sgt remain by the casket. The clergy speaks with quiet firmness for a few minutes, then pauses. Someone in the crowd goes down from the heat, paramedics are at hand. The Capt and 1stSgt stir and your attention is centered again. The Marines remove the flag from the casket. In the background you hear a few short words, but you're intent on watching the flag.

BANG! The first volley, by the time you recover, BANG! the second volley. Now you're ready, BANG! the third volley. You have it under control now.

TAA TA TAAA (taa ta taaa) That first note from the echo bugler!

Damn! I've been to too many of these things, but that tear still came and there was no stopping it!

The flag is folded for a last time. The Captain faces Mrs. Garcia and makes the solemn presentation.

15 May 1975 to 27 May 2000, more than twenty five years, Lance Corporal Andres Garcia has come home.

Semper Fi - Marine!


Email -- jdgrose115@polyglut.net
Web -- http://members.tripod.com/~jdgrose115/

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