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Riverside County Sheriff's Officers prepare to lead a procession from St. Francis of Assisi in La Quinta after the funeral Mass of Cpl. Hunter Lopez, one of the 13 U.S. service members who died in a suicide bomb attack in Kabul on Aug. 26.

By Anneliese Esparza
Managing Editor

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, one of the 13 U.S. service members who died in a suicide bomb attack at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 26, learned a sense of service and self-sacrifice from his Catholic faith and from the law enforcement vocation of his parents, Herman and Alicia Lopez.     

Cpl. Lopez was mourned and honored in Catholic settings throughout September. St. Francis of Assisi Parish in La Quinta, the Lopez family’s home parish, hosted funeral liturgies. A public viewing was held at St. Francis from noon to 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 17. Father James McLaughlin, Pastor, led a Rosary that evening. The following morning Bishop Alberto Rojas celebrated a private Mass of Resurrection for Cpl. Lopez. The Bishop began by blessing Lopez’s casket in the back of the church. Six U.S. Marines then carried the casket down the aisle to the front of the church, accompanied by the family. 

“This morning, we gather here as people of faith to celebrate the life of a brave man, a young man with a big heart. That makes him a hero,” said Bishop Rojas during his homily. “Hunter was a special gift from God, and a beautiful blessing. As I said, not only for his family, but also for all of us here in this country, because he was serving our country, and he has given his life serving us. And isn’t that what Jesus did?

“We are sincerely and profoundly grateful to him, and to you, the Lopez family. We are honored and proud to have had such a young hero like Hunter, serving others and giving his life serving the nation. And now we want to commend him to God, his creator, and to accompany his family and friends in their sorrow as we come together in Christ’s love,” said Bishop Rojas.

Bishop Rojas compared a sudden loss like the death of Lopez to a blackout, as both leave us confused, disoriented and thrust into darkness. He urged relying on God amid such a loss. “There’s only one thing we can be people of faith can do. And that is the turn to the only light that can take our darkness away, our Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ, who loves us, who leads us into the wonderful peace of the love of God,” said Bishop Rojas.

After the Mass, Riverside County Sheriff’s officers led a procession through the streets in Lopez’s honor. Later that day, Lopez was honored at a public memorial service at Palm Springs Convention Center and then laid to rest at Riverside National Cemetery.

The Diocese held its 20th Annual Blue Mass on September 29 at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Chino Hills, honoring those in public safety vocations. At the Mass, Cpl. Lopez was posthumously awarded the Chief Patrick G. Crowe Award, given to one whose work in public safety is impacted by their Catholic faith. Blue Mass Coordinator Eddie Garcia spoke about Cpl. Hernandez’s experience as a teenager serving in the Riverside County Sheriff Department’s Explorer Program, where he obtained the rank of Captain. Cpl. Lopez had plans to join the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department at the conclusion of his military service, according to a statement by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

“He was devoted to serving others and perfecting himself in order to be the best Explorer and then the best Marine possible,” Garcia said.

Herman and Alicia Lopez, who serve in the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department as a Captain and Deputy, respectively, attended the Blue Mass and accepted the Chief Patrick G. Crowe Award on their son’s behalf. As they stood at the altar holding the award, they received a standing ovation.

Earlier in the month the Lopez family issued a statement thanking the public for its words and deeds of support in their time of mourning.

“Last week, we received the news that no parent wants to receive,” the statement begins, later explaining that “Hunter wore the United States Marine uniform with love and pride, and it is very apparent that the community will never forget his sacrifice and our family...

“... there has been an overwhelming amount of people helping us. Whether checking on us, praying, making donations in Hunter’s honor, we will forever be thankful for all of you.”