Monday, August 30, 2010

'American hero' honored

Before he left for the war that claimed his life, Army Ranger Sgt. Martin A. Lugo asked his mother for a favor.

The Arizona Daily Star reported, that If he didn't make it home, he said, he wanted her to give the eulogy at his funeral.
On Saturday, more than 800 mourners looked on as Maria Marin honored her son's last wish.
Wearing a black dress with a tiny yellow ribbon pinned to her chest, the principal of Wright Elementary School took to the altar of a packed midtown church, describing Lugo as an earnest, inquisitive soul who loved his family, his nation and, above all, his God.
She recalled how once, at age 3, while saying bedtime prayers, Lugo asked his mom: "Is Jesus everywhere?"
"I said 'Yes, of course,' " Marin remembered.
"And he said, 'Nuh-uh. If he's here, how come his car's not in the garage?' " she said, sending a ripple of laughter through the standing-room crowd at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church on East Lee Street.
From the time he was a tot, Lugo felt connected to something greater than himself and wanted to make a difference in the world, his mother said.
"He had a need to do the right thing, always. He wanted to live a life the Lord would be proud of," and his Army service was part of that, she said.
So it was that, on Aug. 19, Lugo came to be in Logar province, Afghanistan, leading a team of Rangers in a clash with the Taliban that killed 14 enemy fighters and left him mortally wounded.
Lugo, 24, had enlisted in 2004 after graduation from Tucson High Magnet School. He was on his sixth combat deployment when he died.
"Sgt. Lugo was a Ranger's Ranger," said Col. Bill Ostlund, deputy commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment, who traveled to Tucson from Ranger headquarters in Georgia for the funeral.
"He fearlessly led his squad into and through a fierce firefight," said Ostlund, who called Lugo "an American hero."
"He loved what he did and who he did it with," the colonel said. "He truly believed in what he did."
The pallbearers who carried Lugo's silver casket were all Rangers he had served with overseas. Decked out in distinctive tan berets, they performed time-honored rituals of respect for the fallen.
Brig Gen. Steven Duff, of Army Special Forces Command, presented folded flags to Marin; to Lugo's sister, Leslie Bencic; and to the soldier's father, Martin M. Lugo.
A firing party offered a gun salute and a bugler played taps in the veterans section of Holy Hope Cemetery on North Oracle Road.
Lugo's loved ones were stoic through most of the services, but wept as the soldier's remains were lowered into the ground.
Later, they threw handfuls of sandy Tucson soil onto his grave and laid red roses on top.
Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of the Diocese of Tucson, who oversaw the church service dressed in crimson robes, urged mourners to draw inspiration for their own lives from the way Lugo lived.
"Martin's death makes us think of what is meaningful in life," Kicanas said.
"I think Martin would tell us: 'I'd rather die young, having lived my life with meaning, than to live to old age never having found meaning.' "