‘He was my big brother, my mentor’: Fallen hero’s family says their goodbyes

Local News

VISALIA, Calif. (KSEE) – After more than two months, the family of fallen hero Juan Miguel Mendez Covarrubias was able to say goodbye.

Juan Covarrubias from Hanford was killed in action on Mar. 11 in Iraq after an attack on the military base. Due to COVID-19, airplanes were grounded and his remains weren’t immediately returned. On Wednesday, an airplane arrived with the fallen hero at Visalia Airport.

“It feels like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders because we’ve been waiting for this for so long, longer than anybody should have to wait for their family members,” said Daniel Covarrubias, Juan’s younger brother.

Despite them not having the best upbringing, Daniel said they tried their hardest to make the best out of every situation.

“To me, he was my big brother, my mentor, my coach, we went through a lot together,” Daniel said. “My brother wasn’t perfect, but out of everything, he was just a really good human being.”

With American flags raised up and motorcycles lined up, a crowd showed up to pay their respects.

“Even though I don’t know him, it means a lot because you don’t know what they go through, it’s not just them, it’s also the family that serves,” said Frank Sontoya, a retired state fire marshal who attended the procession.

Although his brother is gone, Daniel said his memory will live on and he will tell his nieces and nephews about the bravery he showed.

“That their uncle was a hero, that their brother was a hero, that he was just a great human being and that he gave his life. He did everything, and he did it right,” he said.

Juan Covarrubias will be laid to rest on Saturday at Kings River Cemetery.

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