Community unites over loss

Leroy Segura Sr. and Sandra Segura await the start of services for their son, Army Sgt. Leroy “J.R.” Segura Jr., on Monday morning at Sacred Heart Church in Clovis. Segura was killed in a vehicle accident Aug. 4 in Iraq.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Six soldiers serving as pallbearers stood at attention Monday as the flag-covered coffin bearing the body of Sgt. Leroy “J.R.” Segura Jr. was lowered slowly into the ground.

Hands held crisply in salute, tears welled in their eyes and rolled down their cheeks as the soldiers battled their emotions.

When the words “order arms” broke the somber silence, the soldiers relaxed their salutes and wiped away the tears. They lingered over the coffin of their fallen brother and the area’s second war casualty in a month before disappearing into the crowd.

The Army Honor Guard members were among the hundreds of family, friends and officials undeterred by the rain and dark clouds collected overhead who gathered in Fort Sumner Cemetery to witness a hometown soldier being laid to rest.

“His sincere desire to bring stability to the (region of Iraq) is an example to which all service men and women aspire,” a soldier said as he presented Leroy and Sandra Segura Sr. with a Bronze Star, awarded their son for his meritorious service in Iraq from July 6 to Aug. 4.

Segura, 23, died from wounds he sustained in a vehicle accident Aug. 4 in Iraq. He was serving his second tour in the war torn country after receiving a Purple Heart last year.

Born in Fort Sumner, Segura was raised and attended school in Clovis, though family members said he spent much of his time in the town of his birth visiting relatives.

Earlier in the day, Segura family joined together in a large hug outside Sacred Heart Church in Clovis before Mass. At the center, Leroy Segura Sr. held his wife tightly.

They remained huddled together, arms intertwined and leaning on each other for support as they watched a small group of soldiers gently lift the casket from the back of a white hearse.

Rows of veterans lined the sidewalk holding flags, creating a pathway for the soldiers approaching the church.

Hundreds of well-wishers converged on the church carrying flags and banners thanking Segura for his service. Many present were veterans and active-duty military, others citizens coming forth from the community, there to honor the fallen hero.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson ordered flags at half staff Monday and Tuesday in honor of the fallen soldier and said in his executive order, “Sgt. Leroy Segura’s patriotism, bravery and dedication to the state of New Mexico will always be remembered.”