Hundreds gathered Friday to pay respect to 22-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez of Indio, one of 13 service members killed in last month’s bombing in Afghanistan, as his body was driven through the city ahead of a public viewing.
Lopez’s body was carried in a procession that started at 9 a.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Community in La Quinta and passed the three schools Lopez attended — Amelia Earhart Elementary School and John Glenn Middle School, both in Indio, and La Quinta High School.
Amelia Earhart Elementary School placed 900 flags outside of the campus, alongside photos of Lopez during his years attending the school.
“The smallest flags represent each child on campus, the medium flags represent each staff member who does their best to educate our future citizens and the largest flag represents our country,” according to a Facebook post Friday by the school. “All are parts of a whole: One child, one school, one Country together in honor of a Marine who gave his life for our Country. Rest in Peace, Corporal Hunter Lopez. You will live in our hearts and memory forever.”
John Glenn Middle School also displayed American flags and photos of Lopez from his time at the school. La Quinta High School paid tribute with hundreds of students lining up to pay respects as the procession passed.
The procession then looped back to St. Francis of Assisi, where a public viewing began at noon and will continue until 7 p.m.
The three-day remembrance for Lopez will conclude Saturday. A memorial service is scheduled at 11 a.m. at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The center’s Oasis Room will be open to the public, who can watch the service on video screens to comply with COVID regulations.
A total of 1,000 members of the public will be permitted to attend, and masks will be required.
The service will also be streamed on the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department YouTube and Facebook pages.
At the service’s conclusion, a procession will go from the convention center to Riverside National Cemetery, where Lopez will be buried.
The three-day remembrance began Thursday with dozens of people gathering near the Palm Desert sheriff’s station, where lights flashed on police cars and fire engines in honor of Lopez as his body was carried in a procession.
That procession began at Forest Lawn in Cathedral City, passed the Palm Desert Sheriff’s Station and ended at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Community.
American flags were placed along the route.
“We’re lucky enough to be here because of a lot of young men like that,” Lloyd Chaisson told The Desert Sun while waiting along the route. He told the newspaper he came to pay his respects as a Vietnam veteran because he had a lot of friends who never made it home.
Lopez and 12 other service members died Aug. 26 in a suicide bombing at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, amid the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country.
Lopez was the son of Riverside County sheriff’s Deputy Alicia Lopez and sheriff’s Capt. Herman Lopez. According to the Riverside Sheriff’s Association, Hunter Lopez was a Riverside County sheriff’s Explorer Scout with the Palm Desert Station from September 2014 to August 2017, and planned to become a sheriff’s deputy upon his return from Afghanistan.
“Hunter was devoted to serving others and perfecting himself in order to be the best Explorer and Marine possible. Whether at work or at home, Hunter strived for perfection, seeking knowledge and experience from those he respected and admired,” the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement. “When on leave, Hunter enjoyed being around family and friends and sharing his experiences with everyone.
“He lived life to the fullest and was often the reason why family and friends would bend over backwards to get together when he was around.”
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