Corporal d’Indio. Hunter Lopez honored at Palm Springs Memorial Service

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Commemorations for Cape Town. Hunter Lopez continues Saturday with a public memorial service in Palm Springs before the US Navy rests at Riverside National Cemetery.

Law enforcement gathered outside the Palm Springs Convention Center on Saturday morning to see World War II planes fly over the building in honor of Lopez. After the flyby, they dropped off in the main hall for service.

Around 100 masked mourners saw the memorial on screens in the building’s designated overflow room, while the main lobby was filled with hundreds of Lopez’s relatives alongside uniformed staff.

Lopez, from Indio, was one of 13 U.S. servicemen killed in August in a bomb attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. The news of his death was greeted with sorrow by many in the Coachella Valley, as Lopez had deep roots in the area.

Six U.S. Marines, alongside the Lopez family, brought the casket into the convention center as bagpipes played.

Lt. Tim Brause gave the welcoming speech to the assembled crowd, during which he explained how much of a “Star Wars” fan Lopez was.

“I think he chose the Marine Corps because he couldn’t find a recruiting office for the Jedi Knights,” Brause said.

He also explained how Lopez, at the time of the bombing, was among several Marines who cycled through various stations at Karzai Airport. Shortly before his death, Lopez rescued two young girls who were crushed among the panicked crowds at the airport.

Brause described Lopez’s rescue of the two girls as a defining moment in his young life.

Sgt. David Traylor was at the airport with Lopez that day. After the couple got the kids to safety, Traylor said, he looked at Lopez and they banged their fists. “Good shit, brother,” he recalls saying.

“And unfortunately, I never saw my brother again,” Traylor said.

Lopez’s uncles, Juan Carlos Lopez and Alex Aldana, both shared memories of their nephew on duty.

They remembered Lopez expressing his desire to become a Marine shortly before graduation, as well as a hamburger recommendation that the family said they intend to keep alive.

Juan Carlos Lopez said that even though his nephew’s grandparents spoke English, he would write letters to them in their native Spanish – likely relying on Google Translate – to show that he cared for him.

“There are no words to express how my nephew was a hero not only to his country, but to all extended family and friends,” he said.

Friends Nick Conoway and Matthew Zamora both shared stories about growing up with Lopez. They shared a love of video games and knew early on that their friend was a mature, goal-oriented young man.

Conoway said his sister, who recently gave birth, gave her son the middle name Hunter in honor of the Marine.

“For me, it reminds me of all the amazing memories, the lives he saved, the lessons he taught me and the sacrifice made for our country and others,” he said.

Conoway also thanked Lopez’s parents for raising a great son. “We saw the type of man he has become: brave, caring and strong,” Zamora added.

USMC Cpl. Michael Chambers told the story of his meeting with Hunter Lopez at the Palm Desert recruiting center. The two developed a strong bond as they worked together in training camp – a bond that persisted throughout the deployment.

“I knew before I left that he would die for me and that I would die for him,” Chambers said.

Lopez was constantly watching war movies, Chambers said, and could rehearse entire scenes from memory. He idolized the heroes portrayed in those movies, and now he’s a hero like them, Chambers said.

The service ended with the blessing, which was given by USMC Chaplain Steven Walker.

Tony Regalado, a Vietnam veteran, left Whittier with his wife, Esther, to attend the memorial.

“He’s a Marine, I’m a Marine,” Regalado said. ” I had to come.

Regalado grew up in East Los Angeles and has several parents who also served or are currently in the Marine Corps. He said, through tears, that it was particularly difficult to hear that three of the soldiers killed in Kabul were from southern California.

Although he didn’t know him, Regalado said he was in awe of how much Lopez was able to accomplish in his short life.

“It’s a shame he was so young,” said Regalado.

Uniformed personnel from the US Marine Corps, California Highway Patrol, local fire and police departments, and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department made up the majority of those in attendance.

Saturday’s memorial service is the latest in a series of events being held in Coachella Valley this week to honor the memory of the Navy.

Lopez’s three-day funeral procession began Thursday at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Cathedral City, continuing past the mourners lining the street near the Palm Desert Sheriff’s Station and finally to the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic community. at La Quinta.

On Friday morning, the procession continued with the schools Lopez attended: La Quinta High School, John Glenn Middle School in Indio, and Amelia Earhart Elementary School in Indio.

Amelia Earhart Elementary prepared for the event by placing 900 flags outside the school, along with photos of Lopez from her student days.

Rhiannon Celaya, who attended elementary school with Lopez, attended the procession with her family.

“He was really good at letting his friends know he cared about him. Hunter saw that I didn’t have any friends when I was a kid, so he became a good friend of mine. There are no words to thank him for that, as well as for the sacrifice he and his family made, ”she said.

His remains were again returned to Saint Francis of Assisi where a visit took place from noon to 7 p.m.

Lopez was killed on August 26 in a bomb attack determined to be coordinated by a terrorist group targeting American and Afghan allies who were trying to evacuate the country by air. He was one of three Inland Empire soldiers killed in the attack. Cpl. Dylan Merola, from Rancho Cucamonga, and Lance Cpl. Norco’s Kareem Mae’Lee Grant Nikoui is also deceased.

After Saturday’s memorial, Lopez will be buried in Riverside National Cemetery, dedicated to the military.

He is survived by his parents, Herman and Alicia Lopez – both of whom work for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department – brother, Owen; and sister, Trinity. Lopez aspired to become a deputy and was a departmental explorer scout for three years before joining the Marine Corps. He served for four years before his death.

Christopher Damien covers public safety and the criminal justice system. He can be reached at [email protected] or follow him at @chris_a_damien.

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