Skip to comments.Hundreds pay their respects to fallen soldier
Posted on 08/04/2006 7:06:48 AM PDT by CedarDave
Hundreds of people packed into a Lubbock church to remember the life of Andrew Velez, a 22-year-old Army specialist who died while serving in Afghanistan.
The family described Thursday's service as a "celebration," a celebration of Andrew and his service.
"I am glad you are here to celebrate the homecoming of this young man," Roy Velez said of his son.
He assured the crowd that filled the First Church of the Nazarene in Southwest Lubbock that he was not sad, that his son died while serving his country.
"This was not a direct blow to our country," he said. "Because our country still stands."
Federal and local officials joined the Velez family in prayer. Mayor David Miller offered words of encouragement and U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, thanked the family for their sacrifice.
"He was one of those young men that when called, said, 'I will serve,' " Neugebauer said. "Andrew made that call, not once but twice."
Andrew returned to Afghanistan to fight after he lost his brother, Cpl. Jose "Freddy" Velez, 23, of Lubbock. Freddy Velez was killed by enemy fire two years ago in Iraq.
"Not many families have lost two to the same conflict," Neugebauer said.
According to the Army, the pair are the only brothers to die in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Robert Cortez, the family's pastor at Grace Beyond Walls Fellowship, said that Andrew was compelled to complete a mission so he returned to Afghanistan, even when he didn't have to, even after he had lost his brother.
He challenged the crowd.
"The next time you go to worship God," Cortez said. "Remember the people who gave their lives freely so you could worship God in this country."
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All the way into Texas and to Lubbock, the radio was covering the event live. When I arrived in Lubbock, there were protestors and counter protesters at the church. The protesters, those nutcases from the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas were on the corner next to the freeway access road. There were only a handful led by that Phelps woman and six of her eleven children and maybe one or two adults. Separating them from church and those coming to attend the service were well over one hundred bikers and later Lubbock citizens with American Flags.
Andrew belonged to a small evangelical church called "Grace Beyond Walls". However, for the service, the memorial was held at the much bigger First Church of the Nazarene. Inside, the church was not full initially but gradually filled up as some of those demonstrating outside came in. Lubbock police were present in force at the back of the church in case they were needed, but these people were here to honor, not to protest. Onearea at the back was given over to the press who and there were many media cameras set up.
The 1 1/2 hour service was not quite what I expected -- it was much more personal and by the end I felt like one of the family and very much at peace. This is a faith-based family and their faith in the Lord and Jesus Christ is not only sustaining them but uplifting them as they know that both boys are reunited in heaven in the presence of God. This Hispanic Christian congregation is unabashedly pro-America, very patriotic, believes in what our President is doing and supportive of the mission. The father, Roy Velez, spoke for about 15 minutes near the end of the service, talking about his sons, how he will miss them but knowing he will see them again. He is a very inspirational speaker and definitely the family patriarch. The power of prayer, collectively and individually, is sustaining them.
But before we got to that point, the service started with the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the National Anthem. Congressman Randy Naugebauer came in from DC for the service and gave an uplifting short address. Mayor Dave Miller brought a bible and read the story of Job from it. The senior Pastor Robert Cortez spoke at length and asked us all to join him in prayer and we responded to the words, some with hands raised in acknowledgement and praise to the Lord.
Toward the end of the service, he asked military and veterans to stand and be recognized. As such we stood and received applause. He then asked us to come forward and stand in front of the coffin. The Sergeant in charge of the military detail directed us all to attention and then ordered hand salute facing the family. I was directly in front of the young wife. As Taps played she broke down, weeping inconsolably until the end. We were dismissed and returned to congregation. Prayer was a big part of the service and the family stood and received the prayers of us all. Finally, upon exiting we were meet with a 200 feet long, quiet line of citizens and bikers holding American flags on either side of us.
During the service I sat beside a member of the extended family and her two young boys (about 6 or 7). I brought a small flag with me into the church and really didn't know what to do with it. Shortly after the service started one boy was getting restless and I smiled and handed it to him. He kept it and waved it occassionally. After the veterans sat back down, his mother turned to me and thanked me for my service.
A very moving service to be long remembered by me and others who attended.
I will be posting the story of his death in a separate thread.
...Very moving, you communicated so well, as if we were there.
And God bless these two men and their families!
Roy Velez hugs a guest at a memorial service held for his son Andrew Velez at the First Chruch of the Nazarene Thursday evening in Lubbock Texas.
Isn't Phelps the legal spokesperson for the Kansas church? Has anyone heard anyone else from the church ever speak and where is the church's minister for all these protests?
"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." --John Donne
GOD BLESS YOU!
Thank you for your service in our military, and your continued service to our country as a TREMENDOUS civilian....
Thank you for going and telling this story, and for your service.
Sad but uplifting recount of a hero's journey Home.
Our prayers have been said for these 2 young men and for their mom, dad and others they left behind.
"TT", Beth & Nana
Thanks for the ping.
There is yet a third military son, a stepson, who is a drill instructor but I don't know where.
Thank you for that verse and kind words earlier. I am still affected by the events of last evening.
CedarDave: Thanks for describing everything exactly as it was, which was such a bittersweet, paradoxical and beautiful mixture of tragedy, hope, faith, family, sadness, celebration, patriotism, fellowship, and almost every other human feeling God has blessed us with.
In the end, the Phelps bunch were but an annoying blip, an annoyance, but not really any more so than the heat, the dust (from a storm that tried to blow through but virtually evaporated just before the service), the occasional fly or skeeter.
I don't think I have the capacity to write the words to do any of it justice, so I'll just leave it at that.
A good description of the wide range of emotions. I've never experienced anything like it before. For me it was rough to stand in front of the coffin saluting when they played Taps and have the young mother and wife sobbing as she did. I heard other crying from the family also, and maybe the congregation. But as current and former military men we kept composure and followed the orders until dismissed.
I was on the far left side of the church and not until I left did I see other members of the public in uniform including firemen and other soldiers in fatigues.
Thank you for sharing the moving story of the ceremony and of his death..My prayers and gratitude go to the Velez family for all that they have given for this country.
Thank you for going and thank you for your service to our country..