As streets were filling with people ready to welcome home U.S. Marine Cpl. Humberto Sanchez on Sunday, Sept. 12, a private dignified transfer by the Marines from Communication Company, Detachment 1, Combat Logistics Regiment 45 at Grissom was underway.
At approximately 10:24 a.m., the aircraft carrying Sanchez’s remains touched down at the base.
The solemn movement of the transfer casket by a carry team composed of military personnel from the Marine Corps began the daylong homecoming for the 22-year-old Logansport native.
“It was a very somber experience,” said Douglas H. Hays, chief public affairs officer with Grissom.
Sanchez was among the 13 U.S. service members killed Aug. 26 in a suicide bombing at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Military personnel lined the base streets to pay their respects and to salute the fallen Marine as the hearse from Gundrum Funeral Home & Crematory of Logansport drove by, Hays said.
With the base closed to the public, Hays said, family members were able to spend a few private moments with Sanchez prior to the procession, which began around 11 a.m.
Heading west on Indiana 218 toward the intersection with U.S. 35 in Walton, military members, law enforcement officers and family members were greeted with a patriotic salute. Thousands of area residents — from Logansport to Galveston and from Bunker Hill to Young America — stood by the roadside waving flags.
Among the many were people who drove more than two hours away to attend the procession.
“To see people lined up and saluting is very impactful,” said Hays, who has only experienced one other dignified transfer and subsequent procession during his career.
And to see the number of people choosing to come out and show their respects has been amazing, said Walton Town Marshal Tom Heflin, who kept crowds off the roadway and directed traffic. Heflin has served in law enforcement for more than three decades, beginning his service with the Cass County Sheriff’s Department.
During his time as a law enforcement officer, “I have never seen anything like this before. Not even close,” he said.
At 11:37 a.m., the procession made its way into Walton.
Only military, law enforcement and those invited by the family — including motorcycle riders with the Patriot Guard and Marines — were part of the procession. As the hearse entered the town limits, a respectful hush fell over the crowd. Hats were removed and placed over hearts. Hands were held in salutes. Heads bowed in honor.
The low roaring of engines was the only sound as the hearse passed by, followed by a black sport utility vehicle carrying Sanchez’s mother, Coral Briseño, and her family. As her tears flowed, she lifted her head ever so slowly in humble acknowledgement of those who exuded quiet reverence for her son who gave his life in protection and service of his country.
And as they slowly exited Walton, making their way to Logansport, the rumble of the bikes overpowered the stillness that had settled over the crowd.
Originally, One Warrior Foundation had counted on nearly 2,000 bikers to take part in the event. But with 9/11 ceremonies a day earlier, thousands more opted to stay or make their way back to Cass County to take part in the procession, according to Heflin.
More than 7,000 Patriot Guard, Marine Corps and other military service members joined in the procession. While the back half of the riders were passing through southern Cass County, the first few thousand began making their way onto Main Street, Burlington Avenue and Market Street in Logansport. Meanwhile, the hearse and vehicles carrying family members had stopped at the intersection of Market and Eighth streets in Logansport for a 30-second pause under a garrison flag.
At the same time, four A-10s from the 122nd Fighter Wing of the Fort Wayne Air National Guard Base zipped high above the clouds, making multiple passes.
With Logansport residents paying tribute to Sanchez’s family, folks held their flags high and uttered soft prayers, condolences and “thank yous” as the SUV carrying Briseño slowly passed by. Approximately 90 minutes after leaving the base, the family once again was able to spend precious time in the company of their loved one.
Once at the funeral home, it was time for a mother to embrace her son; time for siblings to see their brother again; time for family to be together once more.
It was time to welcome a hero home.