By FRANCISCO E. JIMENEZ
LOS FRESNOS – Twenty-five year-old Marine Corps veteran Edoardo “Eddie” Polanco was killed in an auto-pedestrian accident on March 18, 2012, outside of Los Fresnos on State Hwy 100, where he was reportedly jogging in training for an upcoming marathon.
Since then, a makeshift memorial was placed at the spot where he was killed, and over time, it slowly deteriorated.
That is until retired Army Staff Sergeant David Vasquez, 34, of Harlingen decided to take matters into his own hands for a fellow veteran whom he did not know.
“I have a daughter who lives on the Island, so I come through here almost every other weekend,” said Vasquez on Monday while taking a quick break between restoring the American and Marine Corps flags on Polanco’s roadside memorial. “Yesterday (Sunday, Nov. 3), I passed through here and I saw that the flag was already on the floor. It was already corroded, rotted and torn apart; so I took it upon myself to fix it, because I didn’t know who he is or anything about him but as a fellow soldier I just couldn’t let that flag fall down. Here I am, just doing that.”
Vasquez, a 1998 graduate of Mercedes High School and veteran of both the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War felt that it was his duty as a fellow veteran to help honor brother-in-arms.
“I paid for everything. I didn’t know him. I just saw that his Marine Corps flag was nearly falling down and was in pieces, so I took it upon myself to get him a new one,” Vasquez said. “It was definitely (my duty). I was a staff sergeant in the military, and I trained three soldiers who passed away. I know the feeling of losing a soldier. It’s just a little respect.”
Vasquez retired from the Army after serving eight years in the Infantry Division. It was during those eight years that Vasquez underwent three deployments, one to Afghanistan and two to Iraq, resulting in him losing both of his kidneys.
“I was in dialysis for about four years,” explained Vasquez. “On November 18, it will be my one year anniversary of being with my new kidney. I’d just like to pay it forward since I’ve been blessed with a new kidney. I’ve been blown up too many times, and there are a lot of toxins that you inhale when you get exploded. Little by little they just deteriorated.”
As reported in the April 14, 2013 edition of the San Benito News, Polanco’s widow, Kara Polanco, has been down a long road seeking justice for her husband’s death. She created the “Justice for Eddie Polanco” Facebook page in hopes of influencing what she hopes will be a fair sentencing for Juan Carlos Garcia, the driver of the vehicle that struck and ultimately killed Polanco.
“On October 18, the State submitted a motion to amend the language in the indictment,” said Cameron County District Attorney Public Information Officer Melissa Zamora on Tuesday. “It was approved, and the defendant, Juan Carlos Garcia, is scheduled for jury trial on (Tuesday) November 12.”
The wording in the indictment previously stated, “…by criminal negligence, cause the death of an individual, Edoardo Polanco, by falling asleep while operating a motor vehicle and striking Edoardo Polanco with a motor vehicle.” The state changed the language “by falling asleep” to read “by failing to stay on the roadway.”
In the days leading up to Veterans’ Day, and Garcia’s trial following, it is considered symbolic to see individuals looking out for fellow veterans.
“Now, especially the way the government is, I feel like they tend to turn their back on us, so we have a lot of veterans that are still willing to sacrifice their lives for anything,” said Vasquez. “Just because we’re disabled doesn’t mean that we can’t be a part of the community.”