Tribute to 3/7 Marine Cpl. Samuel Tapia
Marine killed in Iraq buried in hometown
By FERNANDO DEL VALLE Valley Morning Star
SAN BENITO, December 27, 2005 — As Nazaria Sanchez sobbed over her son's remains Monday, she laid fresh roses on his silver coffin, their pedals fluttering in the cool wind.
For his wife Jacqueline, Cpl. Samuel Tapia died a hero in Iraq on Dec. 18, their daughter Samantha’s first birthday, said Tomas Padilla, his wife’s uncle.
“He had the valor to enlist and he left his daughter and wife with so much honor despite so much sorrow,” Padilla said in Spanish after the burial at Mont Meta Memorial Park. “He wanted to be a Marine since he was little. That was his dream.”
As he gazed at the family, Pvt. Cipriano Villanueva thought back to the Whataburger restaurant where he worked with Tapia three years ago.
“That’s what he wanted — to be a Marine, to be a hero,” Villanueva said. “He just wanted to be a hero. I’m proud of him.”
As a bugler played Taps, a Marine color guard shot off a 21-gun salute.
While Jacqueline Tapia sobbed before her husband’s grave, State Sen. Eddie Lucio gave her an American flag.
“We realize we have lost a great American, an outstanding Texan whose short life truly made an impact,” Lucio told the family. “The vast majority (of soldiers) come from the lower middle class, the working poor. They are the ones who make our country strong.”
At a Mass at St. Teresa Catholic Church, San Benito Mayor Pro-Tem Joe Hernandez proclaimed Dec. 26 “Lance Cpl. Samuel Tapia Day.”
“He died a true United States Marine, honoring his family and the people of the United States of America,” Hernandez told the crowd that packed the small church. “He will always be remembered as a hero.”
As the lights of a Christmas tree twinkled on the altar, the Rev. Fernando Gonzalez asked family and friends to celebrate Tapia’s life.
“Sometimes death comes before its time,” Gonzalez said in Spanish. “We don’t ask ‘why’ of death. Christians should ask ‘Why do we live?’”
On Dec. 18, a single shot killed Tapia, 20, as he patrolled the Iraqi city of Ramadi.
About three months after his graduation from San Benito High School, Tapia joined the Marines.
A year later, he was sent to fight in Iraq.
“He was happy,” said Ruth Aguirre, Tapia’s wife’s aunt. “He had talked to his wife about what could happen. He was aware.”
THE FINAL INSPECTION
The Marine stood and faced God, Which must always come to pass. He hoped his shoes were shining, Just as brightly as his brass.
"Step forward now, Marine, How shall I deal with you? Have you always turned the other cheek? To My Church have you been true?"
The soldier squared his shoulders and said, "No, Lord, I guess I ain't. Because those of us who carry guns, Can't always be a saint.
I've had to work most Sundays, And at times my talk was tough. And sometimes I've been violent, Because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny, That wasn't mine to keep... Though I worked a lot of overtime, When the bills got just too steep.
And I never passed a cry for help, Though at times I shook with fear. And sometimes, God, forgive me, I've wept unmanly tears.
I know I don't deserve a place, Among the people here. They never wanted me around, Except to calm their fears.
If you've a place for me here, Lord, It needn't be so grand. I never expected or had too much, But if you don't, I'll understand.
There was a silence all around the throne, Where the saints had often trod. As the Marine waited quietly, For the judgment of his God.
"Step forward now, you Marine, You've borne your burdens well. Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets, You've done your time in Hell."