'I want to reach for the sky'
Strangers touched by Marine's life and sacrifice mourn with his family, friends.
By JEFF ROWE and FERMIN LEAL
A grateful nation thanked a quiet, serious Marine on Friday as
his family, friends and scores of people who did
not know him joined in tributes and prayers.
Cpl. Jose Angel Garibay was killed in action March 23 near Nasiriyah, Iraq.
St. Joachim Catholic Church in Costa Mesa was filled to capacity with
600 people cramming every pew, the
aisles and the vestibule. Many came because they had read about Garibay or seen accounts of his life on
television news programs.
One of them was Joseph E. Barblet, a civil engineer from Newport Beach.
He took a day off from work to
"honor and respect this man."
Another was Maria Esther Davila, a retired home-care provider. She came,
she said, "just to be with him on his
last day. He was so young, and he gave his life for freedom and peace."
Martha Gonzalez, a 10th- grader at Estancia High School in Costa Mesa
and an usher at St. Joachim, said she
didn't know Garibay, but she said, "he died helping us."
Classes were canceled today at St. Joachim's school because of the funeral.
In his homily at the funeral Mass, Auxiliary Bishop Jaime Soto of the
Diocese of Orange said, "Every soldier
goes to war with the hope that his sacrifice will bring peace and an end to war. We gather to honor a soldier
with the earnest hope that his sacrifice will bring an end to war."
Soto continued, speaking in English and Spanish, "We believe Jose is
in the care of the almighty Father.
Simona (Garibay's mother), you and your son know what the ultimate price for liberty is. We walk in the valley of
darkness trusting the shepherd will guide us; that He will stretch his wings of mercy and breathe a hush of
Jose's uncle, Urbano Garibay delivered the eulogy.
"Growing up, Jose would constantly tell his family, 'I want to be someone
in life. I want to reach for the sky.'
Well, he's reached the sky. He's among the stars up there just where he wanted to be."
Marines from an artillery company based at Seal Beach Naval Weapons
Station served as honor guard and
pallbearers. Some firefighters also came, saying they felt a kinship with Garibay because so many firefighters
were killed in the attacks Sept. 11, 2001.
"Our fellow firefighters were among the first casualties in this war
against terror when New York was attacked,"
said Fernando Negrete, a firefighter with the Anaheim Fire Department. "We've lost some good men and
woman since, and Jose is definitely among them."
The Garibay family has been inundated with support since Jose's death.
The federal government awarded posthumous citizenship to Jose Garibay,
who was originally from Mexico.
Costa Mesa police named him an honorary officer after learning Garibay had hoped to become a police officer
after completing his military service.
Among the throng of mourners was Alejandro Melchor, Garibay's father,
who had given Jose life but seen little
of it. He left when Jose was an infant. Asked about his son, the Chino landscaper trembled, his shoulders
slumped and his head bowed. He could not find words, he said.
But he said he was proud of his son. "He did what he had to do," Melchor said.
From the church, mourners proceeded to Riverside National Cemetery,
led by six Costa Mesa police officers
on motorcycles. Many family and friends made the 51-mile journey in three buses provided free by the Orange
County Transportation Authority. All the drivers were former Marines. At least 50 cars filled with mourners
trailed the buses.
Along the way, other drivers acknowledged the convoy of buses and cars.
A man in a pickup truck loaded with
equipment made the sign of the cross as he passed the procession.
In ceremonies at the cemetery's amphitheater, the Rev. Joe Robillard,
pastor of St. Joachim Church in Costa
Mesa, said, "With faith in eternal life let us pray for ourselves that one day we will be reunited with our brother."
As he spoke, a C-17 cargo jet thundered off the runway at the adjacent
March Air Reserve Base, coincidental
symbolism to the passage of Garibay's life.
Seven Marines then fired three volleys each, the traditional salute at a military funeral. A bugler played taps.
Marines then presented American flags to the family - one each to Jose's
mother, Simona Garibay; his brother,
Gabriel Barragan; and his uncle, Urbano Garibay.
Maj. Brian Dolan told the family the flags were given "on behalf of
the president, the commandant of the Marine
Corps and a grateful nation."
As she has at every ceremony since learning of her son's death, Simona Garibay remained composed.
But she cradled the flag in her arms the same way she had said she carried
her son 21 years ago, on a cold
night through canyons along the border, on her way to bring her 2-month-old son to America.