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Patriotic Article
Troops and Veterans
By Mike Briggs

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(August 3, 2009)

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7/29/2009 - RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- About a thousand people lined Harmon Drive from the 12th Flying Training Wing headquarters to the main gate here the morning of July 26 to honor fallen Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brandon Lara as a motorcade bringing his body home passed.
The motorcade carrying the casket of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brandon Lara enters Harmon Drive July 26, 2009 at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. USAF photo by Don Lindsey
The 20-year-old from New Braunfels, Texas, was on his second tour of duty in Iraq when he was killed in combat July 19.

A military flight from Dover Air Force Base, Del., that landed at about 10 a.m. at Randolph AFB brought his body home to awaiting family members and military officials.

After a Marine Corps honor guard transferred the flag-draped casket from the aircraft to a hearse, the procession of base and local police cars, funeral home vehicles, family cars and more than 100 Patriot Guard motorcyclists travelled from base operations and then down Harmon Drive between the rows of people lining each side of the street.

Just outside the gate, the motorcade passed under an American flag suspended between the buckets of two outstretched ladders from fire trucks from Live Oak, Texas, and Universal City, Texas.

From the base, the motorcade travelled down FM 78 to FM 3009 and up Interstate 35 to New Braunfels. Like the scene along Harmon Drive, thousands of people in the community lined the streets in Universal City and Schertz leading to the highway.

The gesture did not go unnoticed by the family.

"It was just a beautiful thing," said Jacob Lara, Corporal Lara's father. "It was heartfelt ... looking at all the people standing out there and the lives that this young man touched. It really was heartfelt."

The swell of support for Corporal Lara and his family is indicative of the overall support people in the greater San Antonio community give to members of the military, said Col. Jacqueline Van Ovost, 12th FTW commander, who was on the flightline when Corporal Lara's casket arrived.

"'Military City USA' is a term used a lot in describing the San Antonio area," Colonel Van Ovost said. "It was no clich� Sunday morning when people stood shoulder to shoulder to offer salutes, proudly hold the American flag, place their hands over their hearts and provide whatever gesture they thought appropriate as the procession ... drove the route from Randolph through Universal City and Schertz back to New Braunfels."

The impressive turnout of people on and off the base was the result of e-mail, telephone, Internet, media and word-of-mouth announcements of Corporal Lara's homecoming -- news the base received only two days prior to the arrival.

"I was amazed at the amount of people who showed up Sunday given the short notice," said former Marine Tony Gatlin, who works at Air Education and Training Command here.

He said he wanted to attend and pay his respects because he was once a lance corporal himself and lives the "Once a Marine, always a Marine" motto. He said he also wanted his wife, Erica, who is new to the military family to attend.

"It was very moving and emotional for her because she has never seen anything like that," Mr. Gatlin said. "At the same time, we were both impressed with the pride displayed by everyone out there. It just shows how this community comes together to support the military."

Maj. J.T. Goodson of the Air Force Personnel Center here stood in his service dress uniform and rendered a salute, like many others, when the motorcade passed. He brought his sons, Hunter and Logan.

"I wanted my sons to be there to honor a hero," he said. "I wanted them to see what 'sacrifice' means and to know that Corporal Lara is a real hero, not a movie hero."

He added it was a touching and obviously very sad event, but that he was proud to be among the many who came out to pay their respects to the Lara family.

"It was the least we could do to honor him," Major Goodson said.

Article by Mike Briggs
12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
Copyright 2009

Reprinted from Air Force News Service

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