LOGANSPORT, Ind. — Community members gathered Wednesday night at Logansport High School for a candlelight vigil in honor of their hometown hero killed in action.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto “Bert” A. Sanchez, along with 12 other U.S. service members, was killed when a suicide attack was carried out at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 26.
At the funeral service last week for the 22-year-old Marine, former Vice President Mike Pence said, “He gave his life defending innocent civilians fleeing from the chaos that had become Afghanistan. He specifically stood his post, aiding vulnerable adults and children at the airport fleeing for safety.”
Sanchez’s family said he wanted to protect the children and it was no surprise to learn that was what he was doing when he gave his life. They are working to make sure his memory is never forgotten and to also continue his mission of helping Afghan children and families.
“When I saw video of my son carrying those kids and using his authority to – you can see in the video he was like ‘take this girl,'” said his mother, Coral Briseño. “After I see that video, it’s like I’m not saying anything that isn’t true. You can see both sides of my son, like the loving big heart and the strong part.”
“I could not be more proud of him. He was just such a beautiful soul.”
Briseño said when she learned Afghan evacuees being housed at Camp Atterbury had arrived, her initial thought was, “I just want to go to the camp and see, like showing my son’s picture to see if anyone was helped by him,” she said.
She realized there was something much bigger she wanted and needed to do than just find out if her son helped evacuate anyone who made it to Camp Atterbury.
“I started realizing the need that they had and I was like, for sure I’m gonna collect what they need and I’m gonna volunteer,” said Briseño.
Not only does Briseño recognize the great need right now for the thousands of evacuees being housed at Camp Atterbury, but she also knows what it’s like firsthand to come to a new country with nothing but the clothes on your back.
“I came to the United States when I was 19 years old. I had a one-year-old daughter, and we came with nothing in our pockets, so for me I know what it feels [like,]” said Briseño. “I know what it feels like to come to a different place when you don’t have anything. It was hard for us.”
“My kid was doing something special. He gave his life for those people, so I’m not gonna stop.”
People have been asking Briseno, “What can we do?” She said the answer was easy.
At the entrance of the McHale Performing Arts Center at the high school Wednesday night, boxes were placed to collect donations for the children and families at Camp Atterbury. Working together with Team Rubicon to collect and deliver the donations, Briseño wants to ensure that the children and families have food, clothing and toys to play with.
“My son gave his life for those people and I’m gonna do whatever I can to help them.”
She said prior to the vigil, she already had several boxes dropped off to her that had been collected and filled and more donation boxes will be set up in the community and surrounding areas.
Some of those locations include the following:
- Boardwalk Café in Logansport – 501 E. Broadway
- Area Five – 1801 Smith St.
- Country Bakery – 106 S. Sixth St.
- Revolution Church – 3930 E. Market Street
- Walmart – 240 Mall Rd.
- Logansport City Building – 601 E. Broadway
- U-Know Pizza’s pancake fundraiser from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 25
Donations of individually packaged, non-perishable food and bottled water are being accepted, as well as clothing and hygiene products, baby formula, new pacifiers, diapers and more.
Although Wednesday’s vigil was planned for outside, rainy weather forced it indoors. Instead of releasing the 13 sky lanterns in honor of the 13 U.S. service members lost on Aug. 26, 13 candles were lit, followed by a 21-gun salute by the Cass County Honor Guard.
Sanchez’s family said they are so grateful for the support they’ve received over the last few weeks.
His sister, Abi Sanchez, told CBS4, “It is very bittersweet because it makes me happy that so many people are honoring his memory and want to honor his memory and do something for him, but at the same time it hurts because it just makes the fact that he’s gone, real.”
“Keep paying it forward by being good citizens, by being kind to your neighbor, whether they’re Hispanic or from a different race of your own. We forget because we’re like, we’re paying honor to this fallen Marine but he was Mexican and he was very proud of that. The people behind him, supporting him, and encouraging him to be a Marine are Mexican,” said Abi.
Under his uniform, Abi said her brother proudly had two tattoos paying homage to his heritage.
“He cannot be more proud to be Mexican and American at the same time,” added Briseño.
His hometown community and teachers that had the honor of calling Humberto one of their students gathered at the vigil Wednesday to share more about how proud they were of him, too.
Amy Werner, an art teacher who also oversees the Student Council at LHS, had Sanchez as a student during his freshman year and watched him grow throughout his time at the high school. She helped organize Wednesday’s vigil.
“He was a great kid and he’s imprinted himself on my heart,” she said. “He took many art classes. He loved the arts and he was just a fun, happy kid, always joking around.”
She’s helped paint some of the murals around Logansport in Sanchez’s honor and said she was moved by his kindness and courage in the way he helped so many people in Afghanistan.
“They just needed help and he was there to help people,” said Werner. “I think it’s really important that we continue to honor him, not only in things like this, but with our own actions and what we’re doing for other people.”
She said Sanchez would likely be shocked by the number of people whose lives he’s touched and she hopes his legacy continues to touch the lives of even more people for years to come.
“There’s so much divisiveness that using this as a catalyst of kindness and showing that, look what he’s done now what can I do, to throw that into the universe and make it a better place,” said Werner.
A moment of silence concluded the vigil for the fallen Marine at LHS. As people exited, they saw the downpour had ended. Instead, these photos show what attendees walked outside to see.
Sanchez’s family has also established a scholarship fund to accept memorial contributions in his name. Gifts may be sent to the Cpl. Humberto Sanchez Memorial Scholarship Fund, at the Cass County Community Foundation Inc., P.O. Box 441, Logansport, IN 46947 or online.