San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

January 26th, 2010
San Marcos turns out to honor fallen Peña

012610penaA hearse carrying U.S. Army Captain Paul Peña turns from LBJ Drive to Hopkins Street in downtown San Marcos Tuesday. Photo by Chris Doelle.

By ANDY SEVILLA
Associate Editor

Emotions were strong in San Marcos Tuesday as the body of the late U.S. Army Captain Paul Peña made its way through the streets of the city after landing earlier in the day at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio.

As a motorcade carrying Peña’s body drove through San Marcos, onlookers paid the fallen soldier their last respects in reverent silence, waving American flags as tears rolled down their faces.

A 2000 graduate of San Marcos Baptist Academy (SMBA) graduate and 2004 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Peña died last week in Arghandab River Valley, Afghanistan, after enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device (IED).

“I don’t know (Peña’s) family, but I have a son and a daughter, and anyone that has children, this has got to break their heart,” said Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle). “… When we lose somebody from the local community, it just brings home the war so much closer.”

About 200 people lined the streets of downtown San Marcos looking on to the motorcade that carried Peña’s body to the Pennington Funeral Home at approximately 1:30 p.m. City and county government officials were among the multitude that surrounded the Hays County courthouse square.

“As a citizen of the United States, it’s important that we honor those who have given their life to let us live ours,” said San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz as her voice broke with emotion. “… San Marcos is always a community that at one of the most important moments, shows up.”

Narvaiz said the procession hit close to home as her grandfather, father, brother, and sons have served in the military, adding that her grandchildren would most like serve in the future, as well.

“It’s important that we honor what makes our country great,” Narvaiz said, adding that it’s “always important to remember the sacrifice that brings about freedom and democracy.”

Said Hays County Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley (R-San Marcos), “my heart goes out to (Peña’s) family and friends. I just pray for them and wish them the best. And I hope they know it was really inspirational to see everybody out (at the procession) today.”

Said San Marcos City Councilmember Ryan Thomason, “If somebody is going to sacrifice their life, the least I can do is show up (to the procession) and show appreciation.” Thomason added that the motorcade was “impressive” and “it was nice to see that much support.”

Pena’s remains arrived at the Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, then headed to San Marcos escorted by the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, Schertz Police Department, Cibolo Police Department, Universal City Police Department, Comal County Sheriff’s Office, New Braunfels Police Department, Seguin Police Department, Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office, Hays County Sheriff’s Office, San Marcos Police Department, Hays County Precinct 1 Constable, and The San Antonio Patriot Guard.

“I think it’s really nice that the community does honor folks who serve this country in that way, in a nice, quiet, respectful way,” Hays County Judge Liz Sumter (D-Wimberley) said.

Peña’s family will receive guests Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. at SMBA, where a memorial service will follow officiated by Reverend Dr. Mark Miller.

Peña’s family will receive guests Friday at 10 a.m. at St. John’s the Evangelist, 128 South Audubon Drive in San Antonio, where a mass of Christian burial will take place at 11 a.m. with Father Stuart Juleen officiating. Interment will follow at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio.

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