Oregon Marine killed in Iraq wanted to help children after serving


An overflow crowd gathered at Eternal Hills Memorial Gardens outside Klamath Falls to honor Lance Cpl. Juan Manuel Garcia-Schill, a 20-year-old who wanted to teach elementary school when his time in the Marines ended.

Garcia-Schill died July — during combat operations in Fallujah.

"We said we would do for each other and watch out for each other," Lance Cpl. Richard Bowen, a friend of Garcia-Schill's for eight years, said Sunday, according to the Herald and News newspaper of Klamath Falls. "One of the last things he said to me was, 'If anything happens to me, I want to be remembered for being me.'"

Garcia-Schill was remembered as a young man who had a good sense of humor and liked to laugh. But, it was noted, he was serious about his Mexican heritage and his desire to serve the U.S. His great-grandfather and two uncles had been in the Marines.

Many classmates and friends came from Grants Pass, where the Marine who was known as Juan Manuel Garcia graduated from high school in 2005.

Family members came from all over Oregon and California. Mourners filled the chapel at the cemetery, and dozens had to sit outside and watch the service on a TV monitor. They said their goodbyes during a three-hour service that included full military honors.

Vince Aguilera, a campus security officer at Grants Pass High School, said Garcia-Schill impressed him as someone who was "interested in everything," including the way some people seemed to treat him badly solely because he was of Mexican descent.

"There are many Mexican-American boys dying for this country," Aguilera told the Mail-Tribune newspaper of Medford. "We talked a lot about diversity and the problems we had in our community.

Aguilera added: "I see here we have people from all different races. What a price to pay to bring everyone together."

Gov. Ted Kulongoski eulogized Garcia-Schill as "Oregonian of overwhelming promise" and a Marine who no doubt found much of his strength and courage in the love of his family.

"I have searched my soul trying to understand who God would demand such a terrible sacrifice," Kulongoski said. "I do not know the answer. No one does."

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden spoke of Garcia-Schill's desire to help children, saying that he taught soccer and Spanish to kids in Grants Pass. Rod Schill, a great uncle, gave concluding remarks by reading, at the request of the Marine's mother, what Garcia-Schill had said when he deployed.

Garcia-Schill told his family that he was going to Iraq for the honor and protection of his country and family. But after serving in Iraq, he altered that to the "honor and protection of my country, my family and the children here."

Schill said could identify with how Garcia-Schill felt. As a former Marine in Vietnam: "I remember how sorry I felt for the children in that war."

After mourners paid their final respects, the honor guard carried the casket to a hearse, which carried Garcia-Schill's body about 200 yards to the grave site. After the casket was lowered, family members dropped flowers into the grave and then tossed soil atop the casket.

Garcia-Schill, who was born in Klamath Falls, was buried next to his great-grandmother and great-grandfather.

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