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Mar 3, 2020

Corporal Yassir Mendez is buried with military honours

Corporal Yassir Mendez joined the Belize Defence Force as a member of Intake fifty-three in 2010. He was posted to the air wing in 2011. He served there up to the time of his untimely death, along with three of his colleagues in the line of duty last week. Today Mendez was buried in his village in the north. Here’s a look at the funeral proceedings:

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Corporal Yassir Mendez was buried with military honours in his home village of Douglas in Orange Walk. This morning, Mendez’s casket, draped with the Belizean flag, departed his home on the shoulders six fellow B.D.F soldiers. The casket was loaded onto a ceremonial hearse. The Belize Defence Force led the procession through the village to the church where the body was received. Following the service, the soldiers led the way to the village cemetery where the pall bearers, six B.D.F soldiers, carried the casket to its final resting place. There, the final words and rites were performed, to the tune of the B.D.F Band’s bugler playing The Last Post and the soldiers carried out the ceremonial twenty-one gun salute. At the end of the service, Minister Elodio Aragon handed over the Belize flag to Yassir Mendez’s wife. It was an incredibly sad day for Mendez’s family, friends and colleagues. Leobardo Mendez says it was an extremely difficult day for the family and it was one that they just wanted to see to a conclusion.

 

Leobardo Mendez, Uncle of the Deceased

Leobardo Mendez

“It was very, very difficult to start with. I feel that my uncle is the one who actually feel it the most because my aunt looks like she is taking it but from here to the church and the church is where they started to feel it more. When they reached at the burial ground is where – because when they put him is where they really feel it.”

 

Attending today’s funeral are Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security Elodio Aragon;  Former Minister of National Security John Saldivar and area Representative of Orange Walk North Gaspar Vega. Brigadier General of the Belize Defence Force Steven Ortega and other rank and file of the Belize Defence Force, as well as other law enforcement representative. Minister Aragon says:

 

Elodio Aragon

Elodio Aragon, Minister of State, Ministry of National Security

“Today, I missed Cabinet because I wanted to be here and I think it was very important that we have the representation from the executive and somebody representing the government; the Prime Minister, out here. Taking time to be here is just right because at the end of the day these soldiers lost their lives in the line of duty to their country and I think that it is important that we take the time and come out and show that support to the family and the village and to all Belizeans that we care about what has transpired and so I think it is fitting for me to take the time and be here. If you know the history of the village, it has a large number of serving members whether they are in the Police Department; the Coast Guard or the B.D.F, and so it is very touching for the village but more so for the immediate family; the wife and kids and his dad and mom. Most of these things are very tough on the immediate family itself. Being out there giving that support and all the members of the B.D.F, the Coast Guard and the Police,  I think it goes to comfort them and nobody can ever replace the loss and grief but at least we are here to support and let them know that we are by their sides.”

 

Today, Mendez’s uncle Leobardo Mendez, a former Sargeant Major with the force, recounts the twenty-eight-year-old’s love for his job. Corporal Mendez spent ten years in the Belize Defence Force.

 

Leobardo Mendez

“One day, Yassir told me. ‘Uncle, I want to join the B.D.F.’ I am an ex Sargeant Major. I told him well the B.D.F is a good job if you want to get the job. One day he told me that he is going to take the test and he went and passed the test and they called him to join the recruit and he did the training and he joined my unit at the time it was Gulf Company. At the time he was there for three months and after that there was a vacancy to join the airwing crew and I told him that it is a good thing that it would be a good career because he could learn more and he told me that he would take the opportunity and I told him to go and to take the exam. He went to take the exam and passed it. Like one week after they told him, ok, he is qualified and will be transferred to airwing and from there he continued until now what happened to him.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Did he love his job? What kind of person was he on that job?”

 

Leobardo Mendez

“To my knowledge, he was a person who was really dedicated to his work. One day he told me, ‘Uncle, I am so glad about what you did for me. You gave that opportunity to move to airwing  and I  am so glad with it.”

 

 

Mendez says that the sudden death on the job is the last thing they expected despite the nature of the work. He says that now that the burial is over, they want answers because they don’t believe they have received the full account of what really transpired during the deadly helicopter crash:

Leobardo Mendez

“This is something that nobody was expecting this tragedy that happened. But it happened so suddenly people are like wow. To tell you the truth, I think everybody is asking for more information about what really transpired, what happened in that accident.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“As his uncle, do you have any fears, any doubts, that certain things are being held back from the family?”

 

Leobardo Mendez

“I think it is something that everybody is thinking about because I don’t think that they are giving the exact information that should be passed to family because I think they took too long to react to what happened.”

 

Corporal Yassir Mendez, and three of his fellow soldiers Major Adran Ramirez, Major Radford Baizar and Corporal Reynaldo Choco all died in the line of duty when the helicopter they were onboard crashed into the western lagoon off the coastal road. Minister Aragon describes the loss of these lives as a tragedy in many ways:

 

Elodio Aragon

“Listen, this is a great loss and this incident that has occurred is a real tragedy to Belize especially to the airwing of the B.D.F because at the end of the day, these men were not only serving members but were well trained and a lot of investment were made in them and they were doing a great service to this nation. Where the airwing is at this point in time, we have to find more people or I guess people have to come up and take up these challenges so it is a great loss in all accounts.”

 

Mendez’s family last saw him alive a few days before the crash. They found out that he had died that Friday morning.  He leaves behind a wife and two children. Yassir Mendez dead at twenty-eight

Andrea Polanco reporting for News Five.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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