President Fox: Don’t spit on a U.S. Marine’s grave!

By Barbara Simpson

Mexican President Vicente Fox owes big-time apologies to a deceased U.S. Marine and his family, to every member of the United States Marine Corps, to the U.S. military, the Pentagon, President Bush and the people of the United States.

It’s a big order, but then Mr. Fox is a big man. Isn’t he? Or is the unconscionable delay in his good-neighbor /good-manners duties a reflection of the fact that he is, in reality, a very small man who, perhaps because of his “macho” image, just can’t handle saying, “I’m sorry. We were wrong.”

They were wrong.

Consider: a full military funeral for a U.S. Marine disrupted by Mexican soldiers, armed with automatic weapons. They not only demanded the honor guard turn over their (fake) weapons but ordered them back to their car, later surrounding the vehicle and refusing to allow it to leave.

It was as good as spitting on the grave of 22-year-old Juan Lopez, a Mexican born, U.S. Marine who was killed in Iraq on June 21. But it’s more than that. By avoiding this moral obligation, Vicente Fox shows Americans just what he thinks of this country. Apparently, not much. He plays the good neighbor, but in the case of the funeral of USMC Lance Cpl. Lopez, there isn’t a scintilla of decency.

Cpl. Lopez was born in the small, Mexican farming town of San Luis de la Paz. He immigrated to Dalton, Ga., as a teen and joined the Marines. His assignment took him to Iraq where he was killed. His wife and family wanted him buried in his hometown with full military honors. The arrangements were made for the July 4 funeral.

That’s when everything began to hit the fan – at least as far as the Mexican government and military were concerned.

It seems Mexico doesn’t take kindly to “foreign military forces” on their land. So the presence of U.S. Marines in uniform and carrying firearms got them all in a snit.

But it was a funeral! No matter. Assurances that the weapons were part of the uniform and that some form of weapon was needed for the ceremonial military 21-gun salute, didn’t hold any water.

Finally, a compromise was reached with the Mexican government: The salute was banned – no weapons would be fired into the air. Also, any “weapons” carried by the Marine honor guard would be “ceremonial” – in reality, fake guns. They would not be operational.

That should have done it. But it didn’t.

Family and friends gathered and Marines honor guard and pallbearers were there. The flag-draped casket was ready for the ceremony and burial in the tiny cemetery in the village.

Four Marines marched toward the grave – two of them carried the ceremonial rifles. Suddenly, their path was blocked. Four armed Mexican soldiers demanded the Marines return to their vehicle. It remained a standoff until a trumpet player began the music of the ceremony, which then proceeded over the objections of the Mexican troops.

When the proceedings were over and the Marines returned to their vehicle, some 14 Mexican troops turned up “to guard” the area and prevented the car from leaving for period of time.

Cpl. Lopez’s family was outraged that the Mexican government disrupted their requested military funeral. The reaction was the same in this country although the story didn’t get the media play it should have. Apparently, it isn’t politic to criticize the Mexican government.

Three days later, the Mexicans issued an apparent defense of the incident. According to the statement, it all happened because the honor guard violated Mexican law by carrying rifles.

So much for prior agreements.

Even though the story quickly disappeared from any news coverage, the U.S. Defense Department remains furious. According to a Defense Department memo, the incident was “deplorable,” the Mexican response didn’t satisfy U.S. concerns about the funeral’s disruption and the department is still waiting to hear from Mexico about the situation.

I’m glad the Pentagon is furious. I hope the Marines are. I know I am. We all should be. We need a full, public apology.

If Vicente Fox ignores this, we should have a long memory. Tell him no more free passes. Stop his travel in this country telling us how to run our immigration policies. Stop his demands to accept his poorest people so he can rid himself of financial drains on the Mexican economy.

Ignore demands for driver’s licenses and votes for illegals. Stop honoring ID’s issued by Mexican consulates. Ignore his demands and criticisms of our justice system. Secure our borders and fire on Mexican troops who cross our border illegally. Send home all his citizens who are here illegally.

Following Cpl. Lopez’s burial, his family was presented his official U.S. citizenship, which he earned following his military service and death.

Welcome, Lance Cpl. Juan Lopez. Your adopted country honors you. Semper Fi!