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Videos: Army Spc. Juan Miguel Mendez Covarrubias’ body arrives home 2 months after killed in Iraq

A U.S. Army carry team transfers the remains of Spc. Juan Miguel Mendez Covarrubias, of Hanford, California, March 15, 2020, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Mendez Covarrubias was assigned to 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chuck Broadway)

The body of fallen hero Spc. Juan Miguel Mendez Covarrubias finally returned to Hanford on Wednesday.

A plane carrying Mendez Covarrubias’ body landed in Visalia around 2 p.m. and was lifted into a hearse after a ceremony on the tarmac.

The vehicle traveled west on State Route 198, exited on Redington Street, turned east on West Sixth Street, and then north onto North Douty Street to the Whitehurst-McNamara Funeral Home.

Hundreds of local residents waving American flags turned out to pay their respects for the hometown hero.

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“I feel for the family and I also was stationed in Fort Hood and my son’s there,” Johnny Soto, who was present with a large American flag, said. “People should be aware and give them the honors. Also to let the family know they’re not in vain and that we appreciate what they did.”

Mendez Covarrubias, 27, was killed in a defense strike at Camp Taji in Iraq on March 11. He was killed by “enemy indirect fire” along with Air Force Staff Sgt. Marshal D. Roberts, 28, of Owasso, Oklahoma, a service member from the United Kingdom, and 14 others were wounded.

Those wishing to pay their respects lined up all along the route for a procession of law enforcement, motorcycles and many other vehicles that ran more than a mile long. The Kings County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, Honoring Our Fallen, American Warriors of California and more took part in the procession.

Members of VFW 5869 Nisei Liberty Post passed out flags to people and paid their respects as well.

“All we can do is show our respect in our way,” Norman Boyles, commander of the Hanford chapter, said. “It’s just respect to another veteran, especially to somebody who lost their life over there and gave to their country.”

Mendez Covarrubias’ awards and decorations include the Global War on Terrorism Medal, National Defense Service Ribbon and Army Service Ribbon. He was posthumously promoted.

According to a press release, Mendez Covarrubias entered the Army in June 2018 as a signal support systems specialist and had been assigned to 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, Texas, since March 2019.

“1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment would like to extend its deepest sympathy to the family of Specialist Mendez Covarrubias following the rocket attack on March 11 at Camp Taji, Iraq,” Lt. Col. Adam S. Camarano, commander, 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division said in a press release from Fort Hood. “Specialist Mendez was a cherished signal support systems specialist in 1-227th Aviation Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. The regiment and his fellow Soldiers are grieving the loss of a true warrior. Command Sergeant Major Travis Eicher and I would like to express our most sincere condolences to the family and friends of Specialist Mendez Covarrubias. His loss is felt across our formation and he will not be forgotten.”

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© 2020 The Hanford Sentinel