North County Times
April 19, 2003

Father of fallen Escondido Marine thanks community

                EDWARD SIFUENTES
                Staff Writer

                ESCONDIDO ---- Fighting back tears, Fernando Suarez del Solar on Friday said thank you to the community for the
                support that he and his family have received since his son, Marine Lance Cpl. Jesus Suarez del Solar, was killed in Iraq on
                March 27.

                "The manifestations of love have been immense, from all over the world," Suarez del Solar said, speaking in Spanish in
                his Escondido apartment, where there were several pictures of his 20-year-old son in a Marine uniform.

                The family buried their son April 11, but on Friday there was still an altar in the family's porch decorated with flowers, flags,
                candles, letters, cards and a small statue of an Aztec warrior, a symbol for their son.

                The altar will be taken down Sunday, the ninth day after burial, as is the Catholic tradition, Suarez del Solar said.

                Since the news of their son's death, the family has opened its doors to the community, and people from as far away as their
                native Tijuana have visited. Many others have sent cards and deposited money in a fund that was initially supposed to help
                them pay for the funeral costs.

                The family said that because they had decided to bury him in a local cemetery rather than in a military ceremony, the military
                had offered to pay for only part of the cost of the burial.

                "We wanted to bury him with our traditions," the father said.

                In the end, the military stepped forward and paid for the entire cost, Suarez del Solar said.

                Now the $12,000 that has been raised will be used to help the families of other troops killed in Iraq. The father showed
                receipts of $500 checks that he said had already been sent to three families. Two more will be sent out soon.

                If there is any money left after the war, Suarez del Solar said he will save the rest of it for Erik's education. Erik is Jesus
                Suarez del Solar's 16-month-old son.

                One of the most difficult things to cope with now is the uncertainty surrounding the events of his son's death, Suarez del
                Solar said.

                It has been widely reported that Jesus Suarez del Solar died after stepping on a land mine, but a military report that the
                family received said the young Marine died of a gunshot wound to the head in battle.

                "I saw the body and I saw the face," the father said. He said he did not see evidence of a gunshot.

                Holding cards that have arrived from as far away as France, Suarez del Solar said he hopes his son's death will mean
                freedom for the people of Iraq to choose their own government.

                Jesus' funeral attracted hundreds of people, who lined the streets of Escondido to see a 294-car, 2-mile motor procession.

                The family said it was part of their way of sharing their grief with the rest of the community.

                "I felt that the way to honor his courage was to scream to the four winds who my son was and why my son died," Suarez
                del Solar said.

                Contact staff writer Edward Sifuentes at (760) 740-5426