Kings County to honor Hanford soldier killed in Iraq

Preparations are underway in the South Valley to honor a fallen soldier who will return home on Wednesday.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- U.S. Army Specialist Juan Covarrubias was killed in action on March 11 during a rocket attack on a military base in Iraq.

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But shortly after his death, the coronavirus pandemic grounded return flights for fallen heroes across the country.

Now, after a two-month delay, California and the U.S. government have reopened services, allowing the Covarrubias family to finally have their son returned to them with full military honors on Wednesday.

Jess Ahumada founded the nonprofit American Warriors of California in 2011 after his son died in action in 2009. He understands firsthand the pain these Gold Star families experience.

"Everything is just opening up perfectly for the family right now because they were panicked they weren't going to be allowed this, but they didn't want to wait no more," he said. "They wanted to bring their loved one home."

Covarrubias will return to California on an Angel Flight from the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, arriving at the Visalia Airport with a ceremony on the tarmac complete with a 21-gun salute and folding of the flag.

Several local law enforcement agencies will then line the 16-mile processional route on Highway 198 from the airport to Hanford.

All three Hanford Fire Departments will pay its respects to the fallen Kings County hero, complete with a 110-foot ladder fire engine on the tarmac.

"We are sworn to protect the constitution and honor those who have been fighting for it," says Hanford Fire Chief Steve Pendergrass. "As members of the fire department, that's one of our duties and so this is just one of our... it's honestly an honor to offer this minimal service."

The procession will continue through downtown Hanford and end at the Whitehurst Funeral Home.

On Saturday, Covarrubias will finally be laid to rest at the Kings River Cemetery with full military honors complete with a 21-gun salute and folding of the flag.
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