As the American flag was folded over the casket, attendees noticed a special guest circling above. A bald eagle soared above those mourning Midshipman Duke Carrillo at the Naval Academy Cemetery.
Mourners at the funeral said Carrillo — like the bald eagle — symbolized strength.
Afternoon classes were canceled Friday so midshipmen could attend the Catholic Mass held in honor of Carrillo and his family before he was buried at the academy.
“I thought I would only have to be giving this speech at his wedding, but that just shows you how fragile life is,” Carrillo’s younger brother, Midshipman Jake Carrillo, told the crowd of thousands packed into the Naval Academy Chapel.
The funeral started in the chapel and moved to the cemetery to lay Carrillo to rest.
Carrillo, a 21-year-old sophomore, collapsed Feb. 8 during the last portion of the semi-annual physical readiness test. He was taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. The circumstances surrounding his death are being investigated by the academy.
He is the 10th Naval Academy midshipman to die since 2012. All received military honors at their services and as active duty service members, their families received military benefits.
Carrillo’s twin brother, Dylan, told the congregation he was able to hold Duke’s hand “as God brought him into heaven.”
“I was there for my brother from the day he was born until his final moments on this earth and I would not have wanted it any other way,” Carrillo said. “Duke had taken half of me with him then I had taken half of him with me. I will carry both of us through life and I will live as if tomorrow is my last day.”
Duke Carrillo was a native of Flower Mound, Texas. At Flower Mound High School, he was a three-year varsity letterman in football and wrestling and captained both teams. He attended the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Rhode Island in 2018 before joining the Naval Academy Class of 2022. Majoring in quantitative economics, Carrillo earned high marks including a 4.0 grade-point average in the last semester, according to literature handed out at his services.
“He worked his entire life with a constant goal to serve his country,” according to a memorial pamphlet. “Duke was fiercely loyal with the strength of a giant and the tenderness of a teddy bear.”
Aside from his brothers, Carrillo is survived by his parents Jennifer and Gerald Carrillo.
Bereavement funds are being collected for them through the Alumni Association. Donations can be made at usna.com or by mail to USNA Alumni Association and Foundation, 247 King George St., Annapolis, MD 21402-5068.
Donations will be used to support Carrillo’s services in Annapolis. With the remaining money, his family plans to honor him with the Duke Carrillo Preparatory School Scholarship.
But the best way to honor Carrillo, his brothers said, is to hug loved ones tight and enjoy life.
“His motives were clear,” Dylan Carrillo said. “Have a good time, eat great food and make better friends.”
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