Wednesday afternoon, Turlock community members and others from surrounding regions, gathered together with the friends and family members of fallen soldier Specialist Benjamin Pleitez at his memorial service. The service was held at Seventh Day Adventist Church, located in Turlock, on North Olive Avenue.
The body of Specialist Benjamin Pleitez, who was killed in Afghanistan, arrived in a chartered plane at the Modesto Airport on Tuesday. A flag covered casket was presented to his family as friends, community members, and members from various military and law enforcement organizations gathered to show support. From there, the body of Specialist Pleitez was transported to a private viewing at a funeral home in Turlock.
Police officers, firefighters, Army officials and soldiers, Marines and many other servicemen also attended the Memorial Service on Wednesday to honor fallen National Guard Soldier Specialist Pleitez.
Ceres Fire Department and Modesto Fire Department also demonstrated their honor for Spc. Pleitez by hanging a large American Flag on two extended fire ladders over North Olive Avenue, near the North Olive and Tuolumne intersection. Individuals attending the memorial were handed red white and blue ribbon pins to wear as they entered the chapel.
Also in attendance to honor Spc. Pleitez was the Patriot Guard Riders, a group of motorcyclists whose motto is to “Stand for Those Who Stood for US.” Their main mission as an organization is to attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests of the family. They show respect for the fallen heroes, family members and the community members of the fallen soldier. They also are invited to funerals of fallen soldiers to shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions created by any protestor or group of protestors. Although there were no protestors at Spc. Pleitez memorial service, the Patriot Guard Riders were still invited by the Pleitez family to show support and honor for Spc. Pleitez.
A group of approximately 25 motorcycles, all of which adorned American Flags, were in the parking lot of the church. California Assistant State Captain Matt Golden reported that there are approximately 115 members in the Central Valley alone, and nearly 280,000 nationwide. With the Patriot Guard Riders was also Jess M. Ahumada Jr. with the American Indian Veterans Association. His son had also died while serving in Iraq.
Benjamin Carlos Pleitez was born on April 24, 1987 in Paradise, CA and died on July 27th, 2012, in Mazar E Sharif while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Pleitez was survived by his brothers, John and Evan Pleitez, and his two parents, Salvador and Diana Pleitez.
The service began with a welcoming by Pastor Antonio Cano, followed by a biography of Spc. Pleitez’s life by Frank Clementi.
“He had set his mind to becoming an EMT, however after difficulty finding a job, that’s when he decided to join the Honor Guard,” shared Clementi. “It was there that he began to realize that he belonged to an important group of people who were making a difference in the world.”
Clementi also shared that Spc. Pleitez had gained a lot of respect from many of his commanding officers, and that he had decided that he wanted to make the military his career.
“He was caring, compassionate and he would make you feel at ease. He laughed easily and made others laugh just as easily. When you were around Ben, you couldn’t help but notice how special he was,” shared Clementi. “He’s leaving behind many good friends, and a family that will miss him.”
The memorial service also featured a video tribute to Spc. Pleitez, and a scripture reading by Dennis Brown. Family friend and pastor Carlos Garcia also shared his thoughts and memories of Spc. Pleitez, whom he had known since Pleitez was a child, as he had attended Garcia’s youth group. After a prayer, the flag covered coffin of Spc. Pleitez was transported to a waiting hearse outside while the Star Spangled Banner played in the background.
Following the service, graveside honors were to be held at the San Joaquin National Cemetery, located at 3205 McCabe Road, in Santa Nella, where Spc. Pleitez was laid to rest.
Spc. Pleietez was assigned to the 649th Military Police Company, 185th Military Police Battalion, 49th Military Police Brigade, Army National Guard, San Luis Obispo, and attached to the 1072nd Transportation Company, 746th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 224th Sustainment Brigade, Army National Guard, Van Nuys.
Donations are being accepted in honor of Ben, and can be made to:
Central Asia Institute
PO Box 7209
Bozeman, Mt 59771