WESLACO, Texas -- A fallen Navy sailor made his final trip home to Texas and was laid to rest on Thursday. Noe Hernandez died on June 17 when the USS Fitzgerald collided with a cargo ship off the coast of Japan.
The South Texas community joined family and friends to say goodbye in their own special way.
Sara Yanez found a tune, a way to memorialize the life of her high school classmate and friend, Noe Hernandez.
“I’ve always heard this song by Carrie Underwood, ‘See You Again,’ and I just felt like it was appropriate,” Yanez explained.
KENS 5 met with Yanez at her music studio, where she recorded a cover version of the song. It was an idea the 26-year-old music teacher thought of while people from the Class of 2009 figured out a way to honor the gunner’s mate second class Navy sailor who died aboard the USS Fitzgerald after it crashed with a cargo vessel in Japanese waters.
“I wanted to do something like music and pictures, memories to keep them alive,” she said.
Yanez put together a video on YouTube and shared it with Hernandez’s loved ones. It was her way of giving back to the family of someone who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
She was one of the hundreds who showed up to the burial, from Navy officers to military veterans to pay respect to the fallen soldier who leaves behind his wife Dora and his young son Leon.
“I know that she lost not only the love of her life but the father of her child, her best friend,” Yanez said. “That alone is a feeling that I don’t think any of us are ever going to want to experience but, at some point, we will.”
During the burial, Navy officers performed the 13-fold flag ceremony, reserved only to those who serve in the military. After receiving the triangle-shaped flag, Dora Hernandez took a moment to address everyone present.
“Thank you for showing us your support and coming out here on this hot day and being with us as we say farewell to my husband,” she said with a broken voice. “The support from the community has been amazing and I thank you for that from the bottom of my heart.”
As the Hernandez family received condolences from the community, Yanez and other classmates presented Dora with a plaque on behalf of their high school generation, a plaque in memory of Noe along with discs with the recorded version of the tribute song.
“I just wanted to honor that and let Dora know that we’re with her. That even though he passed, his memory is going to live on because he had an impact in all of our hearts at some point,” she said.
After all is said and done, in the moments they find themselves alone, it is with that song that Yanez hopes the Hernandez family can find peace and move on.
“It’s our way of saying, 'You know, it’s not over yet. We’ll see you again soon,'” Yanez said.
Hernandez is the latest of the seven sailors that have been put to rest after the ship collision.
USS Fitzgerald officers were present at the funeral but declined to provide any comments on the record.
The investigation into the cause of that accident is still ongoing.