Community observes Memorial Day at Sterling-White

A stillness fell over the 80 acres at 11011 Crosby Lynchburg Road in Highlands on Monday morning as the mournful sounds of Taps was bugled remembering war dead at the Sterling-White Funeral Home and Cemetery. The bugle call is a signal for “lights out” at United States military installations around the world and performed at patriotic ceremonies and military funerals. On this occasion of Memorial Day, the 24-note strain of music, maybe the saddest ever played, signaled the end-of-life remembrance for 50 veterans who entered their eternal rest since last year.

The occasion was marked by the attendance of more than 250 people including the Crosby High School pep band who began the ceremony with the Star-Spangled Banner under the baton of director Kevin Knight.

They were followed by the Crosby U. S. Army Junior Reserved Officer Training Corps under the direction of Lt. Col. Toimu Reeves, Senior Army Instructor, JROTC at Crosby High School. Cadets marched to the corner of one of the roads in the cemetery where the Wall of Honor is constructed and dedicated to each of the branches of the military.

Carefully they posted a wreath in front of the large monument.

Members of Troop 264 marched in formation to the Wall of Honor and with the United States flag folded in hand. After the unfurling and posting of the flag, they led the crowd in the pledge of allegiance.

During the playing of America the Beautiful, Vice Regent Laura Richard laid a wreath at the Wall of Honor from the Old 300 Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Crosby.

Post Commander Martin Maier from the David H. McNerney American Legion Post 658 in Crosby spoke. “What today we know as Memorial Day was once Decoration Day, first widely observed over 150 years ago on May 30, 1868,” he said. “This day traces its roots to an order sent by Major General John A. Logan — the leader of a Union veteran’s organization and Congressman. In his letter, Logan made a case and set the precedent for a holiday in memory of soldiers who died to preserve the Union and break the chains of slavery. He challenged his fellow Americans to ‘Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided Republic.’”

Bella Dion, director and owner of Sterling-White Funeral Home and Cemetery was pleased with the turnout.

“It was very emotional, especially at the end when the band played Amazing Grace,” she said. “We don’t do this alone but with our partners in the community.”

Dion said all 30 employees were present at the ceremony to assist guests.

Only feet from the Wall of Honor lies the burial site of LCPL Anthony Aguirre, U. S. Marines who was killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 21-year-old Channelview High School graduate grew up always wanting to be in the military.

“He was always very sweet and was willing to give you the shirt off his back to help anybody,” said Christina Castillo, his older sister.

Castillo said he was a proud person of his school, his ROTC, his country, and his heritage.

“We knew from the time he was three years old that he was going to be in the military,” she said. At that age, he received a brown military jacket and would wear it even when it was 103 degrees outside.

When Aguirre came home on leave to visit, he spent his time at the Channelview ROTC building talking to the students and encouraging them to join the military.

Three weeks before Aguirre died, he was injured, and his staff sergeant brought him in to discharge him.

“He (Anthony) got down on his knees and he begged him not to let him go. He told his staff sergeant that his purpose in life was serving his country and three weeks later, he laid down his life for that staff sergeant and a couple of dozens of other brothers in arms,” his sister said.

Aguirre and his platoon were on a mine clearing operation, and he was in the lead in front of the Humvee. Marines were posted on all sides of the Humvee. The order went out for them to wrap up the sweep. The next step Aguirre took, he heard a click. He didn’t immediately jump or move out of the way.

“Instead, he kept his foot down and told the other 26 Marines standing around him to clear the area and take cover,” she told his story. “When he saw that they were out of harm’s way, he took his foot off the device.”

LCPL Anthony Aguirre gave his life that day so his Marine brothers could live and preserve freedom.

“When we were growing up, Alice Johnson used to live across the street from us,” his sister Krystal Rodriguez said. Johnson, a beloved custodian, is the namesake for one of the middle schools in Channelview ISD.

“We always used to talk about her and how neat it would be to have a school named after us,” she said, not ever knowing then that Aguirre would have Channelview’s second middle school named after him for being a war hero.

Each year his family makes the sad trek from Channelview to Sterling-White Cemetery to remember their son and brother on Memorial Day.

For many named in the Honor Roll Call and the family of Aguirre, it’s a painful reminder that freedom is never free.

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