Valley resident wishes veteran could get raising of the flag ceremony

A Valley resident who's had his share of relatives fight in the war said he thinks De La Garza should get all the honors a soldier killed in combat would get even though he was in Afghanistan as a civilian not a soldier.

Mario Lamas is all too familiar with war and what can happen after a loved one has been in combat.

"I have two uncles that went to Vietnam War and my dad went to Vietnam War also," said Lamas.

He said they all died of lead poisoning that they got while in Vietnam.

"It finally caught up to them and got into their system and then they passed away," he said.

Javier De La Garza, Jr. didn't die from poisoning or while in combat, but he did die in a war zone although off duty at the time.

He had served two tours in Iraq, but decided to go to Afghanistan and work as a software technician and because he was there as a civilian, he won't be receiving a flag raising ceremony.

"That's not right," said Lamas.

The flag raising ceremony is something that soldiers who die in combat frequently receive.

"He's a veteran he might not have been active in combat, but he still was doing something for our country," said Lamas.

Whether he died fighting or not, Lamas said De La Garza should get a flag raising ceremony and all of the other honors that soldiers who died in combat would get.

"I think they should be honored all the same," said Lamas.

But Lydia Caballero with America's Last Patrol said because De La Garza was there as a civilian and not a soldier, the flag raising ceremony is not available to him.

"Those are especially for the men and women who have been killed in action," said Caballero.

But Caballero said the honors available to De La Garza as a veteran includes a rifle volley, honor guard and folding of the flag.

She said it's also important to remember that De La Garza is indeed a hero and will be honored as so.