LOGANSPORT, Ind. — Family and friends of U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto “Bert” Sanchez have always known he was a hero, but now people everywhere do, too.
The 22-year-old was killed in action, along with 12 other U.S. service members when a suicide attack was carried out at the airport in Kabul. Not surprising to those who knew Sanchez was what he was doing in the moments when he laid his life on the line.
At a service attended by those close to Sanchez’s family and viewed by people who streamed it, his heroic actions were shared with even more of the world.
“As history records on the 26th of August, Corporal Sanchez lost his life along with 12 other U.S. service members. He gave his life defending innocent civilians fleeing from the chaos that had become Afghanistan,” said former Vice President Mike Pence. “He specifically stood his post, aiding vulnerable adults and children at the airport fleeing for safety.”
He continued, “As has been reported, a fellow Marine said he knew they had to evacuate the gate where he was stationed, but Corporal Sanchez didn’t run. He was determined to get kids out of the gate, and he stayed at his post.”
Pence said the words shared by Sanchez’s mother, Coral Briseño, perfectly encompassed the final chapter of his life.
“In those final moments of his life, it was a work of heart.”
The funeral service was held Tuesday at LifeGate Church in Logansport, where family and friends of the Marine were joined by Pence, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, Senator Todd Young and other elected leaders.
Several offered their remarks and paid tribute to the Hoosier and American hero who enlisted after graduating from Logansport High School in 2017.
“Humberto was a young man with the world ahead of him, countless opportunities and boundless in his life. He was intelligent and athletic, kind and true,” said Chaplain, Capt. Blake Campbell, who serves at Grissom Air Reserve Base.
“The world was at his feet. There were many paths he could have taken and many directions his life could have gone. But this young man chose the most honorable life of all, a life of service before self,” said Campbell.
Gov. Holcomb offered condolences on behalf of all Hoosiers and recognized the magnitude of the sacrifice Sanchez took when he enlisted and ultimately paid.
“Like so many of our brave volunteer service members, he didn’t know if he’d ever return to take his siblings shopping again, but he knew what he signed up for, and it did not deter him,” said Holcomb. “Wherever duty sent him, he went. Whatever the challenge, he met it head-on, and ultimately in everything he did, Corporal Sanchez gave all that he had.”
Those who knew Sanchez personally, like Pastor Zach Szmara, shared more intimate details about his life, allowing people who never had the opportunity to meet him to feel like they had known him for years.
“He brought life into places that needed it most, his presence brought vibrant color into parts of life that were gray and dull. The joy that he brought into life was so immense, so much so, that you could tangibly feel emptiness when he was missing,” said Szmara.
“You wanted him around, whether it was a Quinceañera or a cookout, a classroom or Christmas Eve, because if [Sanchez] was around, the mood was lightened, and you’d leave with a smile on your face,” he shared.
Sanchez also played soccer for Logansport High School, where he was well-liked and respected by his teammates.
“You’ve probably also heard that he was an athlete. He probably wouldn’t like me saying this, but I don’t think he was ever the best on a team,” Szmara said as he laughed. “Yet, I believe he was one of the most needed people on every team.
“We know he remained an exceptional teammate, far beyond athletics.”
Szmara said Sanchez’s legacy will live on through those who knew him and can share his story personally.
“But it also lives on through those tens of thousands who will never get to meet him in this life but have a life and a future because of his sacrifice,” he said.
At the conclusion of an emotional service honoring Cpl. Sanchez’s life, he began his journey to his final resting place at the Mount Hope Cemetery, where he would be buried with full military honors.
With hands over their hearts, tears in their eyes and flags in hand, people lined the route that the procession traveled to pay their respects one final time.
Peggy and Bill, who traveled from the Fort Wayne area, said the reason they came out Tuesday was simple.
“I want to be here for the family and show them respect and let them know that there’s people out here that care about this, and we feel sorry for their loss,” said Peggy.
“He sacrificed everything for our country and for our belief or what our country is. The freedoms that we have,” she continued, “he sacrificed that in another country trying to show them the same thing and help them have the same freedoms we have.”
Right behind troopers with the Indiana State Police were bikers with the Indiana Patriot Guard Riders, who came together from across the Hoosier state to honor Cpl. Sanchez.
During a procession Sunday, there were at least 9,500 motorcycles that helped lead Sanchez back to his hometown.
“It’s all about honor and respect,” said John Petro, state captain of the Indiana Patriot Guard Riders.
When the Indiana Patriot Guard received their official request from the family of Sanchez to participate, Petro said the calls and emails from those interested began to flood in.
For a majority of these bikers, they not only have a deep sense of appreciation for those who have and continue to serve, but most are veterans themselves.
“Nine out of 10 of the motorcyclists that are behind me today are military veterans in one form or another,” Petro said. “We thank each one of them for their service.”
On Tuesday afternoon, at least 150 motorcycles led the young Hoosier in his final trip through the town he grew up calling home.
“It’s not a parade, it was a funeral escort, and for people to have their children outside holding the small flags and waving them, it brings a light of hope,” said Petro.
Sanchez received full military rites at the burial, attended by hundreds at the Mount Hope Cemetery. Some locals quietly stood in the back of the cemetery, observing the ceremony for a hero they’re so proud to call one of their own.
As dozens of American flags waved in the wind, “Amazing Grace” played in the background, and Marines in attendance wiped the tears from their eyes after laying their brother to rest, the public portion of the services for Cpl. Sanchez were officially over.
A hero was laid to rest nearly three weeks after he paid the ultimate sacrifice to save countless lives.
“The name of Corporal Humberto ‘Bert’ Sanchez will be enshrined alongside the names of America’s greatest heroes in the hearts of every American as long as this nation shall exist,” said Pence.
“On behalf of a grateful nation, millions of Americans will be praying for your family, cherishing the memory of your brave son. I promise you, we will never forget or fail to honor the service and sacrifice of Marine Corporal Humberto Sanchez.”
“Few of us are ever called to make that kind of sacrifice, but all of us are eternally grateful Corporal Sanchez did, and we will always remember, and we will never forget the everlasting impact Bert made on this community, our state, and indeed our nation,” added Holcomb.