ride today. This one was a very short notice to escort the body of LCpl Oliver Estrada from the airport to the funeral home.
There were 19 guard riders and two support vehicles that were able to make the escort. We received an email around noon today and the plane was arriving at 5 pm. As with most things military, it was late, as they say, Semper Gumby.
At the airport, there were three slots available to make the trip to that tarmac and witness the arrival and display of honor. I raised my hand and was able to make this journey, my first. As the plane made its way to the gate, four state of the art pumper trucks, two on each side, made an arc of water over the plane as it taxied. By this time, the afternoon sun was low in the sky and the light show was dramatic, forming a rainbow over the plane.
LCpl. Estrada’s family was on hand to witness his body’s arrival. A Marine Sgt. entered the plane to receive his comrades casket. He exited with tears streaming, overcome by the emotion of the moment. His second in command today took possession of LCpl. Estrada’s last belongings, contained fully within his Marine issue backpack. My heart broke as he passed by, he too with tears in his eyes, trying to hide both his emotions and the backpack from the family.
A full Marine honor guard carried the casket from the plane to the waiting hearse. Houston PD and Houston Firemen stood silently by in respect. His family wept as they saw their son, their brother and their friend make the next to last leg of his final journey.
As we escorted the procession west on FM1960, my thoughts went to a post today that I had made on Lone Star Times. I had posted that America needs to stand tall and be America in Iraq. Day after day we hear stories of death and continue to back away from our beacon of justice as leaders in the world. Day after day we read in the media that we are no longer, as a people, in favor of helping other people strive for freedom, because our blood is worth more than theirs.
LCpl. Estrada served three tours of duty in Iraq. LCpl. Estrada served those tours of duty as a Marine, on the frontlines and in the thick of battle. LCpl. Estrada did not die in Iraq, in the line of duty. He flew home, eager to see his parents, eager to once again be with his friends.
As he was awaiting final discharge from the Marine Corps., celebrating a job well done, LCpl. Estrada was killed in a car wreck in California. Two days and he would be heading home.
Our days on this earth are numbered. We cannot know how many, nor can we know when our time is up. What we can do is live life to its fullest, striving to make this world a better place, striving to do God’s will in every situation. Realizing that we are not here just to be alive, just to watch the latest reality show or make the next dollar. Realizing that the gift of life is not ours to give, nor take away. Realizing that while we are blessed with life, we need to bless others with an opportunity for life.
RIP, LCpl. Estrada, knowing that you did your duty trying to set a people free.