At first glance, Humberto Sanchez looks like many young NCOs who serve in the Marines.
He went through one of the military’s toughest basic training programs to become a “Strategic Warrior” and defend his country. He was standing upright next to other soldiers in photos, wearing the Marines camouflage uniform. He has been honored as a hero by people across the country – from family and friends to strangers on the internet, even the President of the United States.
Sanchez, from Logansport, Indiana, was one of 13 US soldiers who died on duty while supporting the US evacuation effort in Kabul, Afghanistan. Details of a civil service in honor of Sanchez in Indiana are due to be announced, according to his family.According to the Gundrum Funeral Home, which is taking over its services, it will be returned to Logansport on September 12th.
The “backbone of America” President Joe Biden said: Hours after the deadly August 26 bombing.
Governor Eric Holcomb praised him as “one of America’s best.”
Coral Briseño shares the same feelings, but feels it firsthand from a mother’s point of view.
“My child was a hero.”
His mother’s words represent a devastating duality – Sanchez was a hero, but he was also young. His commanding officers may have called him Cpl. Sanchez, but to loved ones the 22-year-old was known simply as “Bert”.
In photos and videos on the Internet, rectangular glasses and a thin, dark mustache complete his mature, military look – but a dimpled smile illuminates his youth. He sings and laughs with friends and other Marines. In a moment you can see him falling asleep on the shoulder of another marine. In another, he carries his older sister on his back and stands next to her two younger siblings.
His best friend from high school, Edgar Rodriguez Sanchez, says they had a Snapchat streak just days before the attack in Kabul.
“I heard what happened,” said Rodriguez Sanchez. “I sent a message and thought, ‘Hey, how are you?'”
“20 years of it”
Sanchez was among a group of incredibly young people killed in Kabul, some as old as the war in Afghanistan. Five Marines lost their lives by the age of 20 – David Espinoza, Jared Schmitz, Rylee McCollum, Dylan Merola, Kareem Nikoui. The oldest in the group, Staff Sgt. Darin Hoover was 31.
They made the “last sacrifice”:The 13 US soldiers who were killed in an airport bombing in Afghanistan
Marines are typically younger than those in other branches of the military, according to the Council of Foreign Relations. In 2018, approximately 70% of Marines were between 17 and 24 years old. In the Army and Air Force, only 40% of Marines were in the same age group.
“I think I’ve had his life twice,” said Bryan Hole, an art teacher who taught Sanchez at Logansport High School every four years. “It’s hard to … fathom.”
the “Eternal War” has touched generations of Americans in different, contradicting ways.
Hole’s first year of apprenticeship was tainted with tragedy – he remembers going into the teacher’s room and seeing the buildings on fire during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The world has changed.
Hole recalls that his high school students were spurred on to action and eagerly drafted into the military because they wanted to defend the country. Sanchez was 2 years old at the time.
“It’s impressive,” said Hole. “But it’s also difficult.”
He never thought that he would experience so much loss over so many years.
“I’ve had students injured, killed and paralyzed and that was 20 years ago,” Hole said. “I haven’t known a year as a high school teacher that we haven’t sent people to.”
The news about Sanchez is particularly heartbreaking, he says, given their close relationship and the fateful timing of his assignment. They spoke on a Facebook video chat in March just before Sanchez went abroad and planned to meet up with a person in November.
“I thought things were de-escalating and coming to an end,” Hole said. “(I thought) ‘He will be fine. He will come home. He will do his duty and he will return.’ “
In 2016, when news of Sanchez’s recruitment was shared on Facebook, someone commented in Spanish, “Is that handsome man going to the Marines ?!”
“Yes, he’ll be the prettiest Marine in the squad,” his mother replied with a smiling emoji.
According to his friend Rodriguez Sanchez, Sanchez hadn’t discussed joining the military during high school, but they both received calls from recruiters on the same day during their junior year.
“In the end we got together, that was super cool,” said Rodriguez Sanchez. They graduated together in 2017 and completed basic training together at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego.
They met again in March of that year and spent time together in California. Sanchez served in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment from Camp Pendleton, according to the Department of Defense.
“We have matured,” said Rodriguez Sanchez of her journey into adulthood. “But when we were together, we were pretty much the same as we were in high school.”
Rodriguez Sanchez recalls hanging out during their teenage years, bonding with their passion for football and the values of “family first”. He recently rediscovered a video from AP US History in which they re-enacted Paul Revere’s midnight ride, brought to life with cheesy video effects and jokes.
“We have a situation,” recites Sanchez in the video and acts as the title character. “The British are coming.”
“Oh my god really? Really?”
He carried that unforgettable presence as the kind of person who would play the main character through different moments in life.
“He was just always himself. He was always Bert,” Hole said, remembering Sanchez in art class. “He was goofy at times, and he would just come back to things in a hilarious way … If he wasn’t there that day, you knew it … The class wasn’t the same anymore.”
But with that humor and that cheerfulness came kindness and devotion.
Sanchez’s jokes were never directed at anyone else, Hole said. He took time out from football to get a job at McDonald’s and save money on a car. As an artist, he was “kind of quirky” and “creative”, according to Hole. But more importantly, he “always finished every project he took on”.
Even at this young age, he was confident.
“He just felt very comfortable,” said Hole. “I kind of admire it, you know, I wish I were a little more like that myself.”
Logansport says “thank you”
The Logansport Congregation has rallied to honor their fallen hometown, Marine.
At McDonald’s, artist painted a mural by Sanchez. the local fire department showed 13 American flags and those Logansport police station Put up a 13-car siren display depicting each soldier killed in the attack on Kabul.
A local news site collects signs and displays pertaining to Sanchez. recall in a Facebook album. Some restaurants offer drinks for those who have not been able to return home. Other local businesses have “thank you” signs.
the Logansport High School boys soccer team observed a minute’s silence on a recent game.
For a community with a significant Hispanic population and tightly knit high school – “the best of both worlds,” Hole says because it’s small for a city school but not too big – Sanchez represented part of the community, the pursuit of something Greater than himself.
Joining the Marines matched his personality because it was where “he could do his part,” Hole said. “And work towards your goal of creating a better life for yourself.”
In their last conversation, Sanchez shared his appreciation for his former teacher. He wasn’t afraid to tell people that they were special in his life, Hole recalled.
“‘I think you’re a really good person, and you know I try to be a good person too,'” Sanchez told him.
Hole said he already thought he was a good person.
“I hope people remember him,” he said, “as a great person.”
USA TODAY contributed to this report.