Vietnam veteran gets military funeral three years after his death
PORT LAVACA, Texas — "Brother, next time you see me, you'll probably see me in a plastic bag."
These choice words have followed Frank Hysquierdo most of his life.
They were the words of his brother, Julian Hysquierdo, who served eight years in the Army, including two tours in Vietnam.
Though his brother's absolute candor about the war pained him, it's the other words he said that he would abide by.
"Don't leave me over there," Julian always said. "I want to come home."
Frank came through with his promise Saturday with a military funeral, finally laying to rest his brother's cremated remains atop their mother's gravesite at the Port Lavaca Cemetery.
Julian did not die in the war, but he died in 2009 at the age of 65, succumbing to what his brother said were complications from Agent Orange.
Julian's immediate family held onto their loved one's remains, intent on having a military funeral for the Port Lavaca native, but it never came, Frank said.
That's when Frank, his older brother, Alfred, his wife, Lillie, and his daughter, Patricia DeLeon, made it their mission to lay him to rest at the place he called home.
"I always wanted him to be back in Port Lavaca," Frank said. "I feel like I really served him by taking his request to bring him home to his land."
The Saturday service had full military honors: a 21-gun salute, the folding and presentation of the American flag and, of course, the somber, low tones of taps.
Coming back from the war, Frank remembers, was tough on Julian.
He lived in Port Lavaca most of his life, and he received little back pay for his service. At one point, he was even homeless, Frank said.
"My brother gave up a lot in Vietnam," he said.
Being homeless for several years is always the part that makes Frank's heart hurt most, he said.
"A lot of people would talk about it," he said, his voice breaking. "A lot of people would laugh at it and never gave him the respect he did deserve."
Frank's wife took the lead in making the funeral happen. Not having the closure of Julian laid to rest was tough on her as well. She knew Julian 51 years.
"He needed to have this done," she said. "Frank gets very emotional, and I get emotional seeing him emotional."
At the end of the service, a heavy burden lifted from Frank, he said.
By the service's end, he wasn't only thinking of his brother, he said, but the countless others who serve in the military.
"I made a mistake in calling my brother a hero one day, and he told me, 'No, brother, I'm not a hero. The ones that didn't come back — those are the heroes.'"