Navy journalist buried in Whittier 52 years after death in Vietnam

WHITTIER, Calif. (KABC) -- Hundreds gathered in Whittier Thursday to say goodbye to Raul Guerra, a man most of them never knew.

But, because of his service to our country - paying the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam - Guerra finally received the proper funeral and burial he deserved.

"This is what he deserved many years ago and he's got it. It's never too late to have it," said Ruben Valencia, Raul Guerra's best friend.

Guerra's body arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday. After a memorial and a funeral at St. Alphonsus Church in East LA, Guerra was taken to his final resting place, Rose Hills Cemetery in Whittier.

Guerra grew up in Montebello with his best friend Ruben Valencia. The Navy journalist was killed in a plane crash in Vietnam 52 years ago.

After the 1967 crash, a Vietnamese farmer found Guerra's body and buried it in his village.

In 2007, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency located the remains, but it's taken tireless work by Valencia to bring his friend's body home.

Guerra was Valencia's best man at his wedding, but the two were separated at 19 years old in 1965 when Valencia, a Marine, was deployed to Vietnam.

That was the last time they'd see each other.

"I know now I have my friend close to me. To be able to come and have lunch with him. I'll bring my chair over here and we'll sit down and after all of this is over, we'll have some me time. Just my buddy and me," said Valencia.

Another person who worked hard to make this day happen: Mary Barrow-Somerlott. She met Guerra while they were studying at East LA College and she was his fiance when he went off to war.

"I'm glad this day has come. I'm glad I'm still here. I'm glad we're all still here to see it and it means a lot," said Barrow-Somerlott.

"This is what our nation talks about it, that we would never leave any man behind and so Raul is just one, we have many more that still have to come," said Valencia.

Closure, not just for Guerra's friends, but for all veterans working hard to honor the memories of their fallen brothers and sisters.
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