Veterans

Thousands Come Together to Honor Fallen Marine

Residents held a parade in front of the veteran's family, commemorating his service in Iraq.

NBC Universal, Inc.

A community came together to surprise Kathryn Steffen and Carlos Pongo after they lost their son, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Diego Pongo, while he was serving in Iraq on March 8.

To commemorate their son’s legacy, the parents posted online about their son’s death. But soon, the post went viral, and words of remembrance quickly turned into thousands of people paying respects in Simi Valley.

“Oh my goodness,” Steffen said in disbelief. “We’re totally overwhelmed … we had no idea this was going on.”

Gunnery Sgt. Pongo was part of “Operation Inherent Resolve” in Iraq, a military operation to intervene in the affairs of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) and the campaign in Syria. As a part of the 2nd Marine Raider Batallion, Pongo’s specific mission was to eliminate an ISIS stronghold.

After Pongo died, his family wanted to hold a funeral, but the COVID-19 social distance requirements made that impossible.

“It’s been a really hard week for the family in grief and I just thought there’s gotta be something we can do,” said Andrea Pongo, a sister-in-law.

Now, with a community-supported parade, the family can officially honor his sacrifice.

“People keep reaching out to us showing us their support and how much they want to be there for us,” said brother Andres Pongo.

The family had tears streaming down their faces as a parade drove by the Pongo family home on Katherine road, giving a final salute to the fallen hero.

“Thank you for coming--thank you very much," cried Pongo’s father, Carlos. "We miss our son so much.”

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