Photos: CSM Barreras laid to rest in Tucson
Dozens of flags swirled in the morning breeze as Command Sgt. Maj. Martin "Gunny" Barreras was laid to rest at South Lawn Cemetery on Saturday.
Command Sgt. Major Martin Barreras died on May 13 at an army hospital in San Antonio, Texas, the result of wounds suffered when his unit came under fire in Herat Province in Afghanistan.
Barreras graduated from Sunnyside High School in 1982 and joined the Marines, where he served until he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1988, where he served as a Ranger for 22 years.
Nicknamed "Gunny" for his time as a Marine, Barreras was known for his leadership and tenacity, said Col. Christopher Vanek, commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment. During a funeral service at Christ Community Church, Vanek talked about Barreras' role in the 2003 rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch, a U.S. Army soldier who was captured during the early days of the Iraq War.
Barreras, Vanek said, volunteered for the additional duty of retrieving the bodies of nine other Americans and two Iraqis who were buried in a soccer field near the hospital where Lynch was rescued.
"When he walked into a room, he set the tone" said brother Dave Barreras at the service.
While his brother was known as a lion in the military, said Andy Barreras, at home "he was a lap dog."
All the boys, said Andy Barreras have a tattoo of their own creed somewhere on their body, "Siempre Familia."
"He may have died under the flag of Sua Sponte," said Andy Barreras, referring to the Ranger motto, Of his own accord, "but he died tattooed on his chest 'Siempre Familia.'"
After the service, a funeral procession took the flag-draped coffin to South Lawn Cemetery, 5401 S. Park Ave., flanked by motorcycles from the Patriot Guard Riders. At the gate to South Lawn, a large American flag was held aloft by two fire trucks from the Tucson Fire Department. Beneath this flag, and along the road where the hearse traveled, fellow members of the Patriot Guard, dressed in motorcycle leathers held their own flags and stood at attention as the procession slowly traveled by.
A detail of Rangers — with their characteristic tan berets and polished jump boots — lifted the casket from the hearse and precisely carried it to its final resting place.
After the last blessing was said, the Rangers folded the flag into a tight triangle, and Vanek presented it to Barreras' widow, Melinda. A bagpiper played "Amazing Grace" and an honor flight of three Apache helicopters rumbled overhead.
“The last time I saw him, he told me it was going to be his last deployment,” said Dave Barreras during the service. “He was right. He may have been wounded on foreign ground, but he died at home."
“In the end, he was a hero,” he said. “Not because he was in uniform, but because of the man he was.”