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Valley Residents Honor Fallen Army Pilot

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Posted: Sep 19, 2012 4:34 PM

Updated: Sep 19, 2012 5:18 PM

HIDALGO COUNTY - Hundreds of people on Wednesday lined the streets along the route of a funeral procession to honor Chief Warrant Officer II Jose Luis Montenegro.

Many supporters said they wanted his family to feel their love and support.

Montenegro's family followed behind the fallen hero's casket in the long procession.

People on the street said they wanted to convey their appreciation and respect.

"It feels great knowing that there is so much support in the Valley and so much love out there. It's great to show that to the families that are in pain right now," Jennifer Espinoza said.

"When we see support for a fallen service member, it means the world to the family ... to be able to see that and it's a way for the community to come together," said Thomas Oaks, senior Army instructor at PSJA High School.

The funeral procession brought memories back for some of the supporters.

Sue Rice said the Patriot Guard honored her father when he died. He was a veteran. The experience led her to join the riders who honor veterans and those men and women killed in the line of duty. This was her first chance to pay it forward.

"You just ride with a lump in your throat," Rice said. Her son served in the Air Force. Her nephew also fought in Afghanistan.

"You're just on pins and needles the whole time their gone," she said.

The Patriot Guard has been called to ride in 39 Valley funeral processions since 2001.

Montenegro was 31 when the helicopter he was piloting crashed in Afghanistan.

Jody de la Fuente said she hopes the community's support will ease the Montenegro family's pain.

"We're here to support them in everything they need," De la Fuente said.

Hector Zuniga said the Valley can't forget.

"He made the ultimate sacrifice so we can continue our freedom," Zuniga said.

Topics: jose luis montenegro, funeral, mission, san juan

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