‘You are truly my hero’ | VailDaily.com

‘You are truly my hero’

EAGLE — It was a lifetime ago that United States Marine Evenor Herrera died serving the country he loved, his nieces' and nephews' entire lifetimes.

His family and friends gathered in Eagle to remember and celebrate his life, on the 10th anniversary of his death, on August 10, 2005.

Evenor's brother, Balmore, and his sister, Stella, arranged the celebration. Relatives came in from all over the country to gather in the Eagle cemetery, as they did a decade ago.

At first Blanca Stibbs, their mom, wasn't certain about it. She had buried her son once, and once in a lifetime ought to do it.

Like everyone else, though, she was glad they did it.

"We wanted family to be able to come," Stella said. "My brother was a very important part of our lives."

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"Let me tell you about myself"

Balmore Herrera, Evenor's brother, is a former Marine. He said he still thinks about it all the time. Balmore is married with a couple kids and working as a police officer in Eagle.

"The what ifs are what eats at you. Would he have kids? Would he be married? Would he still be in the Marines?" Balmore said.

Evenor was 9 years old when the family immigrated from Honduras, the same age his niece Reyah Herrera is now. She spoke during her uncle's 10th anniversary celebration.

For this memorial she wrote a letter to him, and read it for the crowd. She had seen the pictures, heard the stories, and watched the funny videos Evenor and his siblings made.

"To my uncle Chris," she wrote. "You went to heaven. Let me tell you a little about myself …"

Then she did.

She ended with "You truly are my hero."

The celebration opened with the U.S. and Honduran national anthems, and the Marine Corps Hymn. As they played, the rain that had been threatening parted and the sun shone through.

If there was a dry eye in the house, they were lying eyes.

Getting that call

Balmore was stationed in Okinawa when his brother was killed. He was stateside in Camp Pendleton, Calif., when he got the news.

Stella was with her mother in Florida. The phone rang at 2 a.m.

"I was shocked. In the middle of the night you don't expect to get calls like that," Stella said.

"It was devastating. You lost your brother. You know it's a possibility when you sign up. I was a Marine, as well," Balmore said. "Whenever you hear about a service member passing overseas, you think about it and it all comes back for a moment. We think about our brother."

On August 10, 2005, Marine Lance Cpl. Evenor C. Herrera, died from wounds received when an IED exploded during a battle near Ar Ramadi, Iraq.

He was 22 years old.

He had been in Iraq six months and was a month and a half from coming home.

He joined U.S. Marine Corps a year after graduating from Gypsum's Eagle Valley High School.

They local VFW gives a scholarship every year to an Eagle Valley High School student in Evenor's name.

"It's sad. On the other hand the U.S. is what it is because of people like my brother who have paid the ultimate sacrifice," Balmore said.

Why the Marines?

"We wanted to be part of something special. The Marines have the reputation of being the best. It's something that sticks to you and take with you for the rest of your life. Once a Marine, always a Marine," Balmore said.

Keeping the tradition

Almost two dozen police and fire fighters attended the 10th anniversary celebration, all in uniform, led by Jon Asper, retired Eagle fire chief. Ten years ago the Marines guarded Herrera's casket around the clock, a tradition they keep until their fallen is buried. Asper housed them all at the Eagle firehouse.

Ten years ago the Vail Daily's Scott Miller wrote a heart-rending story about Evenor's death. It's in a neatly bound memorial book between letters from Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

After the ceremony the family hosted a dinner at the Brush Creek Pavilion. The star attraction was a Purple Heart cake made by Mountain Flour.

Everyone over ate.

You know this man

Not so long ago, shoppers stopped their rush out of a local big box store as they passed an emotional exhibit, "Remembering Our Fallen."

Most scanned the faces of 87 Coloradans killed in The War on Terror up to that time, while wearing our country's uniform in a war zone. Eighty-seven people, all so young, so much promise and potential, snuffed out.

Do they know any of them?

They do. Evenor Herrera's brave young face is among them.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.