SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — The family of a U.S. Marine killed in Iraq last month had to postpone his memorial service because of restrictions on large gatherings in California to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
On Sunday morning, they were surprised with a parade outside their Simi Valley home that began with a police helicopter flyover, followed by about 1,500 law enforcement vehicles, fire engines and cars.
The Ventura County Star reports the huge turnout to honor Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo, was an orderly affair.
Pongo's sister-in-law helped organize the parade to surprise his parents and brothers. The city's police department helped out with traffic control.
Community members kept the parade going for more than two hours, and many of their cars blasted music while kids hung out of windows waving flags. People who gathered on the sidewalk to watch the parade followed social distancing measures, Sgt. Patrick Zayicek told the newspaper.
“It was a great show of support in our community.,” he said.
Pongo, 34, and another Marine were killed on March 8 during a mission to eliminate a stronghold for the Islamic State group in Iraq. Pongo and Capt. Moises A. Navas, also 34, of Germantown, Maryland, were both assigned to the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Pongo was an advanced sniper, a foreign weapons instructor and a combat marksmanship leader who was fluent in multiple languages, Marine Raider Regiment Commanding Officer Col. John Lynch said.
Pongo’s personal awards included a Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device, a Purple Heart, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, two Combat Action Ribbons, the Army Valorous Unit Award, four Good Conduct Medals, two Humanitarian Service Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and four Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, a MARSOC release said.
Pongo is survived by his daughter and other family members.