McAllen Marine welcomed home by family, supporters two weeks after death

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Cpl. Miguel A. Maya, a McAllen native, died in an accident at Camp Pendleton on April 23, 2024. (Courtesy: U.S. Marine Corps)

McALLEN — At 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, American Airlines Flight 1793 touched down on the tarmac of McAllen International Airport.

The aircraft was greeted with a water cannon salute from two neon-colored emergency vehicles as it slowly taxied to its terminal, where family, veterans, and local law enforcement awaited the arrival of Corporal Miguel A. Maya’s remains.

Maya, 23, of McAllen, died in what was described as an “aviation ground mishap” at Camp Pendleton in California on April 23.

Dozens of veterans and supporters gathered by a fence on the west side of the airport as they attempted to view Maya’s remains being unloaded and pay their respects.

“Knowing that Corporal Maya is coming home, I wanted to pay my respects to him for his ultimate sacrifice and for the family,” Jeff Lindau, an Air Force veteran from Edinburg said.

Lindau said that he has attended every funeral for every military member who has died from Hidalgo County since the start of the Gulf War.

“It’s just purely out of respect,” Lindau added. “The loss is so great for the family. I feel that they are going to expect family to show up — be it immediate or distant — but if people they don’t know show up, that means something more. It’ll last a lifetime that other people cared for the loss of their loved one.”

David Trevino of Mercedes is the deputy state captain for the Rio Grande Valley Patriot Guard Riders. He stood with his fellow riders and their motorcycles parked near La Piedad Cemetery.

“It’s one of those things that the community comes out knowing that a Valley resident, a veteran, passed,” Trevino said.

His voice trembled slightly as he spoke, but he stood tall as he awaited Maya’s arrival.

“This is what it’s all about — to show respect and support that the veteran deserves whether they return alive or they give their life for our country. This is what we do.”

Elivorio Luna of Edinburg wore a scarlet-colored Marine Corps shirt and hat and stood alone as he watched the American flag-draped casket slowly carried out of the belly of the airplane by fellow Marines. He recalled joining the Marine Corps in 1965 with another hometown hero, Freddy Gonzalez, before going to Vietnam.

He said that he gets emotional anytime a fellow Marine loses their life.

“Corporal Maya is a comrade,” Luna said. “Once a Marine, always a Marine. You can’t forget your friends no matter how they died. Especially the way he died, it was something else, unbelievable. Things happen for a reason. I’m here to welcome him home. I wish I could talk to the family and offer my condolences.”