As we wait for the U.S. Navy to return to the Rio Grande Valley the remains of Weslaco native 26-year-old Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, we reflect on the patriotic calling and dedication to country exhibited by this young man — as well as the six others who were killed Saturday aboard the USS Fitzgerald when it collided with a merchant boat off the coast of Japan.

We reflect on the many cities Hernandez lived in, during his short life, to work and serve his country via the U.S. Navy. We reflect on how he eagerly enlisted in the armed services immediately upon his 2009 graduation from Weslaco High School, rather than applying for college scholarships, which would have delayed his service start date, his family and friends told The Monitor.

And we reflect on the grief that his loved ones must bear — including his high school sweetheart wife, from Donna, and their two-year-old son — and the mourning by all of the loved ones for all of the sailors who died in this tragic accident.

As U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, said in a statement: “We mourn the loss of a dedicated and selfless young man who represented the very best that the Rio Grande Valley has to offer. As we remember Noe and the six other sailors lost in the accident aboard the USS Fitzgerald, let us not forget the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform make every day to serve our country.”

Added U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville: “The defense of our democratic values rests on the shoulders of the men and women of our armed forces. Because these brave individuals are willing to risk their lives in service to their country, Americans enjoy security and freedom.”

Too often, as we go about our carefree lives, we forget how and why we can be so carefree: Because others are safeguarding our nation.

For Hernandez, a first-generation American who is the son of immigrants, this principle to serve dominated his life.

We should never forget that. And we hope that his remains will be publicly honored upon their return. We hope our local leaders will also find a way to forever honor this young son of the Valley whose life was cut short in service to our country.

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