March 29, 2005


My son's remains were put to rest yesterday in the Dallas/Fort Worth National Cemetery. It was military burial with full honors.

Just before we parted to the hollow ground we were given over medals by a Brigadier General. Among the military awards was the US Army Commendation Medal, the Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star.

The greatest parting gift of all were delivered by both people in combat uniforms and folks in civilian cloths. These gifts included tears, hugs, smiles, prayers, flowers, blog comments, letters, post cards, food, videos, and even the promise of forgiveness and the setting aside of differences between old enemies.

Kevin Shockey flew from Puerto Rico to be by my side and that of my family. Major Prisco Hernandez drove his family many hours non stop from Kansas to share our grief, Healthvision excused their employees from work to assist the service and the entire executive team along with dozens of co-workers said present. ZedaSoft also halted operations to attend. Ten or more ex-coworkers of Paquito and I (from RIVA Technologies) came from all kinds of places. Eastern Hills High School's Principal and other faculty also came. A member of the House of Representative of the United States also sent his condolences.

Geoff Norton(Kangaroo), Miguel and Laura and Paul and Kathy, Mike Windham and his family, Jay and Kristina and so many, many more sent us beautiful flowers.

But in hind sight, three of the greatest gifts came from surprising sources.

Sergio Torres, the father of another North Texas Army Soldier who was killed in Iraq while in his second tour of duty, made a point of finding my house and meet with me to comfort me. This man is a humble Mejicano that lost his only boy and came with a big bag of Texas barbecue with all the fixings. That night we gave grace and I ate what will forever be the best meal of my life.

Sergeant First Class Kevin Kirchoffer, also drove long distance from Fort Hood Texas to shake my hand and embraced me. He began by introducing himself and telling me how much of a good friend he was of Paquito. What he did not know is how much of him I already knew and how much Paqui idolize him. I could have told him all kinds of stories and anecdotes of their adventures in "Manchu Hill" back in Korea. He mentioned in passing that he had a very humble gift for me in the car and that he would give it to me later. As I gather the beautiful wooden case that now hold the flag that the General gave me moments before we were to lower Paquito's casket to the ground, SFC Kirchoffer, rushed to me and said: Here, I prepared this. He handed me a picture frame that had over seven photographs of Paquito and his friends in Korea, Paquito and Monica, and the one Helmet over the Boots of a fallen comrade they knew while in Korea that was sent to Iraq to have his life cut short before his unit members from Korea could even realized that he was no longer a part of the 2nd ID. I don't know if it was the fact that I knew all of the stories that went with these pictures or the fact that Sgt Kirchoffer was crying in such a heart felt way, but I too cried as if I had finally realized that Paquito was not coming back.

Finally, Paquito's last work assignment gave me the third of the great presents. Gina Cavallaro, a reporter for the Army Times (a USA Today publication) was put under Paquito's personal security watch and care by his commanding officer. She actually spent the last few hours of Paquito's consciousness and help to render first aid in a frantic struggle to keep him alive after the sniper bullet ravaged his internals. Gina gave us all this account:

NPR had Gina reading some of the story. She also adds some observations from our phone conversation.

Posted by martinf at March 29, 2005 07:31 PM

God bless you at this time of your loss. I was one of the people who was writing your son overseas. He was always a gentleman, and sweet as the day is long. While his time on this earth was short, he touched so many people in that span. God bless you and yours, and may God hold your son in His glory forever.

Posted by: Carol DiNatale at March 30, 2005 08:10 AM

I am sorry for your loss, our loss, Paco. I did not get a chance to meet Francisco but I have learned so much about him from my husband, SFC Kirchoffer. What you have written here is truly beautiful and means so much to my husband. He will be missed dearly and will always be held in our hearts.
God Bless you and your family.

Posted by: Michelle Kirchoffer at March 30, 2005 09:02 AM

I would like to take a few minutes and thank the soldiers from Fort Hood that made my cousins ceremony so beautiful. Thank you so much for taking the time and making it that much more memorable. I also drove three hours from Copperas Cove with my two children and my mother and father (Paquito's uncle on his mother's side). It is with great sorrow that I had to say goodbye to Paquito. It had been four years since my father and I drove to Dallas to visit him while he was on vacation at hs dad's house from Puerto Rico where his mom Carmen Hernandez and the rest of the Hernandez family had been raising him. The last tiime I saw him he was a 14 year old kid full of so much life and spunk and even though we hadn't grown up together like the him and the rest of our cousins back on the island, it was as if we had as we goofed around the mall and the ice cream store. He was quite a unique spirit. I am very proud of the sacrifices he has made to make our nation a better place to live. He was truely a brave soul. I want to take a minute and commend his mother Carmen Hernandez for raising such a beautiful person, my heart goes out to you always and to the rest of his family in Puerto Rico who have suffered a great loss, Carlitos, Lauren, Maggie, Abuelo Goyo, Tony, Gregorio (in Texas), Mita,Mariela, Witi,Yomara (also form Texas), and to the many other family members who also loved him dearly and haven't been mentioned. We all loved you dearly and are very proud of you Paquito. God has now two of the greatest gifts our family had to give; you and Guelish. As you watch over us always know that we will never forget you. You are always in our hearts. I LOVE YOU ALWAYS BABY COUSIN.


Posted by: Nohelani Hernandez at March 30, 2005 10:04 AM

Paco, Kevin told us this morning about your loss. I am so sorry.

When you were down here, he was all you could talk about. After reading all the links from your blog I can see why, and now that I know him a little better, I miss him too and wish that I could have met him.

Un fuerte abrazo.

James and Laura

Posted by: James O'Malley at March 30, 2005 01:27 PM

Thank you. I'm sorry.

Posted by: jp at March 30, 2005 04:08 PM

Un abrazo desde Puerto Rico.
Lo sentimos mucho...

Posted by: Un Boricua at March 30, 2005 05:33 PM

God be with you and your family Paco, My family and I will always have you and your family in our prayers. God Bless!

Posted by: Jim Martin at March 31, 2005 08:00 AM

To the Martinez family (including Maria)- As you were blessed with Paco's life, so were we all, since he was one of our extended American family. He served to benefit all of us and all of us are diminshed by his loss.There are no words to make this any easier, but know that we grieve with you.

Posted by: Sharon at March 31, 2005 10:21 AM

I am sorry for your loss. My condolences and thanks for his service.

Posted by: scott at March 31, 2005 11:45 AM

I am grateful that God sent you an Angel on the day when you needed one the most. How awesome. I pray the pain subsides, and may God bless and keep all of you close in His heart.

Posted by: Rosemary at March 31, 2005 07:25 PM

Paco, no encuentro palabras para expresar lo que siento por esta perdida y sé que aún si las encuentro no serían suficientes para sanar el dolor que estas pasando en este momento. Pero te aseguro que siempre llevaré conmigo el recuerdo grato de Paquito, tremendo amigo, tremendo ser humano.

Posted by: Willhem Echevarria at April 1, 2005 09:38 AM

I heard Gina Cavallaro's story this morning on NPR. I was so moved by the story. I wanted to just thank you for your son. God bless you.

Posted by: JP from Frisco, Tx at April 1, 2005 01:30 PM

for the family of Paquito...
i read of your loss on the site, and was saddened. then i read the Army Times article, and cried my eyes out to read that lovely reporter's account of her friendship with you son, and was so filled with pride to know what an awesome person and excellent soldier he was! i am so sorry for your loss, and for the world's loss, for those who never knew him yet... he appears to be well loved by anyone who knew him, and i know he is still with all of you in your hearts.

i heard on tv last night about another young man who was killed recently, and his mom said that when people told her they were sorry for her and her family's loss, her reply was this: "we are sorry for all those people who never knew him or had him to lose" it was such a profound thought and it made me think of your family... i have seen some of the photos of Paquito, and he had such a beautiful light coming from his smile and eyes, and i know he will be missed by all of you...

i am just rambling on here, cuz it is odd to send something to someone i dont know on the death of their child... but i had to write, the Army Times article touched me so very much.

god bless you all, and thank you for sharing everything here in your blog with us, it helps me know what a wonderful person your son was, and what a beautiful family that made me into that wonderful person!


Posted by: Connie in Maryland at April 2, 2005 06:22 AM

ohhh how embarrassing...
that last line should have read:

that made HIM into that wonderful person!

i am sorry i didnt proof it before posting!


Posted by: Connie in Maryland at April 2, 2005 06:24 AM

Dear Paco,

I am a friend of Frank's. How we met is odd and though we never got a chance to meet, we always chatted about meeting and having so much fun together. You might remember me as the guy that does Anime Music Videos. Your son touched my life and I will miss him greatly. It saddens me to know I will never meet him now. Your son helped me become a better artist and a better person.

Just know that Frank was an awesome friend to me and the times we did spend chating online I will always cherish. We always had a good time talking about our art and constantly sharing each others work to critique. I just recently found out about his passing and I still can not come to terms with it, but I wish you and your family the best. I send you and your family my condolensces always and forever. Frank will always be in my thoughts and in my heart. He served this country well and most of all, he did what he wanted to do--protect his loved ones.

Much love and Respect,
Roger Rosales

P.S. -
That was the last piece of work your son did for me so willing and graciously. There is a picture of him in the profiles section. He was by far the best.

Posted by: Roger Rosales at April 4, 2005 09:10 PM