By Mike Linn: CNJ News Editor
LUBBOCK — Fighting back tears and battling to keep control of his emotions, Ernest Galvan told a funeral congregation on Saturday at Lubbock’s St. Theresa Catholic Church the story of his son Daniel’s life.
He talked about the day his son was born, when his 4-year-old sister wanted to trade him in for a baby girl. By the end of the day Daniel had won her heart.
He spoke of the day he was called in from work because Daniel had taken a bet or a dare — to this day Ernest is unsure which it was — to jump off a balcony for a dollar.
He remembered aloud the time he was almost arrested in the San Antonio airport because security found Daniel’s toy pistols in his luggage.
And finally, he spoke of Aug. 12, the day he received the call that his son — Sgt. Daniel Lee Galvan, 30, of Moore, Okla. — died when his Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Afghanistan.
“It felt like somebody had ripped out my heart,” said Ernest, a retired master sergeant. “I don’t know how I made it the eight miles home.”
Daniel, a helicopter crew chief, was transporting Marines to a “hot spot of Taliban terrorists” when a malfunction in his helicopter led to the crash, his father said last week.
He was the only one of the 13 passengers to die. He leaves behind a wife, Sonya, of Lubbock, and two step-children.
During a funeral that lasted about an hour and harbored hundreds of friends and family members, his wife spoke to the congregation about how much her husband will be missed.
Much like Ernest, Sonya — who spoke for about five minutes before her father-in-law — was fighting back tears at the pulpit.
She said a couple of days ago she received a letter from someone she didn’t know, and felt as if her husband was speaking to her as she read it.
“I was in harm’s way, and I’m sorry, I’m sorry mom and dad, but I will not be coming home,” Sonya recited from the letter.
All three of Ernest’s sons served their country, the father said last week.
Ernest said the family’s strong military tradition led Daniel to serve, but for Daniel the service had to keep him above ground.
It was evident in drawings that as a young child Daniel liked flying, his father said. When Daniel got older, his love for flying was evident in a shoulder-to-shoulder tattoo of wings on his back, Ernest said.
While Ernest supported his son in combat, he did attempt to talk him out of transferring from the reserves to full-time service in the Army, as the choice would mean the possibility of dying for country.
He would tell Daniel to go to college, but Daniel always gave his father the same response — that he wanted to be a pilot.
In the end, that dream led to his death.
“Tonight I will smoke a good cigar and drink a Shiner Bach in your honor,” an emotionally spent Ernest said in closing. “I salute you with tears in my eyes and pride in my heart.”