Family, friends remember Aurora woman as 'most passionate Marine'
Marine Cpl. Sara A. Medina of Aurora loved everything about being a Marine.
"She loved the brotherhood, the PT (physical training), the rank structure, the uniform, everything," said her fiance, Marine Sgt. Devon Henderson.
And retired Navy chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Darryl Person, her former naval science instructor at East Aurora High School, said among the 1,000 or so cadets in the program, the late corporal stuck out.
"She felt like a life of service could benefit the cadets like it did her," he said of her talk with cadets when she visited after graduating boot camp.
Medina was honored Wednesday at a funeral service conducted by Person at St. Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in Plainfield.
Medina, 23, five other U.S. service members and two Nepalese military members were killed May 12 in a helicopter crash in Nepal. She was a combat photographer with Marine Corps Installations Pacific out of Okinawa, Japan.
Her job was to document what Marines did. "She just loved capturing the moment," Henderson said of her passion for photography.
The Marines had been helping people recover from a 7.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal April 29.
The helicopter crashed while they were working on casualty evacuations after a second earthquake on May 12.
She had been a Marine for five years, since graduating from East Aurora High School in 2010.
Her father, Miguel Medina, recalled her desire to be in the military and her seeking his blessing to enlist. She enjoyed serving this country, he said. "That was a nice thing she has done in this world," he said.
She loved to travel, and her job took her to the Philippines, South Korea, Australia and South America, according to Henderson.
The two were due to marry upon her return to Okinawa. Medina planned to re-enlist, Henderson said.
"She was the most passionate Marine I know," he said.
Volunteers holding U.S. flags formed a guard outside the church, where the wake and service were held. Inside, two Marines stood at the entrance to the sanctuary, and two more flanked Medina's flag-draped casket. On top were flowers, two photos of her in uniform, and an orange-green-and-white sash with the word "Mexico" on it. Medina was born there and moved to the United States in 2005.
The Band of Brothers Drums and Pipes corps played "God Bless America" and "The Marines Hymn" as Marines carried her casket out.
Another funeral service will be conducted in Durango, Mexico, where Medina will be buried.
She is survived by her mother, Cecelia Lopez, father Miguel Medina and brother, Luis Medina.
Person noted the danger Medina and the others faced even doing humanitarian service, and that they died "as they valiantly strove to assist people who have suffered a devastating loss after a terrible tragedy. Sara Medina was a great servant ... Semper Fi, Marine, Semper Fi."