HANFORD, Calif. (KSEE) — A Valley soldier was finally laid to rest on Saturday, after almost two months due to flights being grounded because of COVID-19.
Army Spc. Juan Mendez Covarrubias was killed in action on March 11, while serving in Iraq. But because flights were grounded due to COVID-19, it took more than two months for his body to be returned home.
Dozens of veterans from all over the Central Valley standing tall with the red, white, and blue in hand, honoring Covarrubias.
The 27-year-old Hanford native was killed after the military base he was at, Camp Taji in Iraq, was attacked by a rocket.
“When you sign the paperwork, you know there’s a chance that you have to give your life for your god and country and this young soldier had to do that and it makes my heart proud that these people have shown up for him,” said Kevin Andersen, president of the American Legion Riders, chapter 100 from Lemoore.
But because of the coronavirus pandemic, the funeral service was limited.
Only about 100 people allowed inside the Catholic Church, while many family and friends waited outside watching a live stream on social media.
“I’m glad that they were able to stream it through Facebook and we’re able to watch it,” said Dalia Nunez, a friend of the fallen soldier.
Among the speakers, 21st Congressional District (D) T.J. Cox.
“Our nation has lost a great warrior, he is a true American hero, his memory will live on in the hearts of all those who loved him,” he said.
The live stream also capturing military officials presenting two awards to Covarrubias’ wife and family, the Army Commendation Medal and the Purple Heart.
“His spirit is the wind that blows our flag free around the world,” a military official said.
Hanford firefighters and police officers also paying tribute to the Army Specialist by lining the walkway, as Valley soldiers carried Covarrubias to his final resting place.
The cemetery limited too. Family and friends wearing masks, consoling one another inside and around this chain-linked fence as they said one last goodbye to their fallen hometown hero.
“He gave his life for us, every one of us here today,” Andersen said.