Anguished family buries fallen Marine
He wanted to serve his new country

By Lisa J. Huriash
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted April 29 2006

Cpl. Pablo Mayorga's pregnant wife sobbed, his mother wailed in Spanish and his little son looked unhappily at the ground as his father's gray coffin, strewn with red flowers, was slowly lowered into the ground.

Mayorga, killed while serving with the Marines in Iraq, was buried Friday at Our Lady Queen of Heaven cemetery in North Lauderdale.

Mayorga, 33, a native of Ecuador who formerly lived in Margate, died April 15 along with three other Marines when their vehicle struck an explosive device in Iraq's Al Anbar province.

His wife, Karina, is seven months pregnant with a boy they planned to call Vinnie. Mayorga's parents, Rodrigo and Betty Mayorga, of Fort Lauderdale, had followed their son to the United States for a better life.

"Pablo wanted to be in the front lines, defending the country that had given him such great opportunity," said his friend Luis Unda, of North Carolina.

"Vinnie will not have the opportunity to physically meet his father, but he will have the opportunity to meet him spiritually when we tell him how great of a man he was, how much we loved him," Unda said.

At a memorial service at Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale, Mayorga was remembered as a guy's guy who loved the latest gadgetry, cars, big dogs, sports and the outdoors.

Most of all, he loved his family: his teenage daughter, Nicole; son Alexander, 8; and two stepdaughters, Emily and Brenda.

Mayorga came to the United States in 1991, and sent for his parents so everyone could live in New York. He moved to Fort Lauderdale and then Margate in the late 1990s, and brought his parents to South Florida.

He worked in pool construction and cleaning for about five years. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, his life changed. He joined the Marines in October 2002. In August 2004, he became a U.S. citizen, only one month before his first deployment to Iraq.

"I wanted to do everything he did," said his cousin, Pablo Gomez, 20, of Oakland Park.

Gomez signed up for the Marines in March and was scheduled to report to boot camp this Monday. After Mayorga's death, his family begged him not to leave, and Gomez decided to stay a civilian. He said the Marines handled the paperwork so he doesn't have to go.

"He was a hero," Gomez said. "But I can't let my family go through this again."

In the parking lot during the service, more than 30 veterans from various organizations lined the chapel entrance, holding U.S. flags. They travel from their homes in cities as far away as Orlando and Jacksonville to shield military families from anti-war protests, said Clayton Murphy of Tampa, a member of the Patriot Guard Riders.

There were no protesters this day.

"When a family sees what we do, it shows them that people still care," said Murphy, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1967 to 1971.

At the cemetery, Mayorga's family shook when the Marines saluted and presented them with U.S. flags. Family members kissed the coffin and wept while two cemetery workers waited patiently on their knees to lower the coffin.

The 30 veterans who had stood back during the ceremony folded their flags, got on their motorcycles, and rode away.

Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at or 954-572-2008.