BY FRANCISCO E. JIMENEZ, STAFF WRITER
A murmur echoed through Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg on Friday as Texas Department of Public Safety troopers slowly filed into the venue, forming a sea of Texas tan Stetson hats.
As more law enforcement officers found their seats, everyone was soon called to attention. A solemn silence fell upon the arena as troopers, together with law enforcement from across the country, stood to honor one of their own: Trooper Moises Sanchez.
The salute came as the Texas DPS Honor Guard slowly carried Sanchez’s casket, draped with the Texas flag, into the arena. This was but the beginning of the nearly two-and-a-half-hour-long funeral service for the fallen trooper, who died on Aug. 24 after undergoing surgery related to gunshot wounds he received in the line of duty in April.
A slideshow was played on the arena screen at the onset of the services, showing a young Sanchez posing for school photos, standing in a room with Mickey Mouse decorations, blowing out a no. 27 candle on a cake that read: “Happy Birthday Moises.”
Soon the photos showed a proud Marine on his wedding day with his bride, Yvonne; on vacation with his family at Sea World and Disney World; with the many teams he coached; and celebrating the graduation of one of his sons.
He appeared happy in every photo.
The last photo was a portrait of Sanchez that has become embedded in the memory of anyone following the case: from the shooting, to his recovery efforts that instilled hope in the community, to his tragic death.
The lights in the arena then dimmed as the funeral services began, but with one light left shining on Sanchez’s casket, irradiating the red, white and blue of the Texas flag resting atop.
A church band performed Christian songs selected by the family, including performances from Sanchez’s sons: Zachary and Zebastian on the bass and guitar.
Zachary was the first to eulogize his father in front of a crowd of thousands, which included Texas first lady Cecilia Abbott, state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa and many other dignitaries. Sanchez’s oldest son described his father as the definition of a role model who always saw the best in him and his younger siblings.
“ After everything I’ve seen my dad go through since I was a kid, he is easily the closest human being that I’ve seen who comes close to the definition of a Christ-like character, or a nearly perfect character,” Zachary said. “It doesn’t matter how much time I spent with him, many different adults are role models, but in my eyes they have fallen short. My dad, to this day, has always been at the very top for me.”
Jason Taylor, the regional director for DPS in the Southeast Region attempted to lighten the mood by reading remarks by troopers who had spent time with Sanchez’s family during his recovery. Among them was a trooper who brought Mexican food to the family, known for eating healthy, to make them feel closer to home as Sanchez recovered in Houston. Another trooper described spending time with the family to help them celebrate his young daughter, Zoey’s birthday.
Lastly, he read the remarks of a trooper who praised his family’s faith.
“ If I had one word to describe my short time interaction with the Sanchez family, I would use the word inspirational,” Taylor read. “That is a wonderful family, clearly devoted to faith, family and duty. The shear strength displayed not only by Yvonne, but Zach, Zebastian and Zoey is remarkable given their circumstances.”
Also eulogizing Sanchez was former South Texas DPS Regional Director Joe Rodriguez, who spoke of Sanchez’s chivalry by describing how he would always open the door for Yvonne.
“ It’s impossible to understand, or even accept it, when we lose one of our best, and that’s exactly what Moi was,” said Rodriguez.
Following further eulogies by Hinojosa, Edinburg Police Chief Cesar Torres, and Sanchez’s pastor, Yvonne, Zachory, Zebastian and Zoey were given one more opportunity to look upon the face of their father and husband as the casket was opened one last time.
The entire arena stood at attention as the DPS Honor Guard performed a 21-gun salute and two buglers performed taps.
Soon after, two members of the honor guard carefully folded the Texas flag atop Sanchez’s casket and presented it to Yvonne, as well as three flags for each of his children.
The honor guard then performed “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes as a riderless horse was escorted by Sanchez’s casket. The riderless horse is symbolic of an officer or soldier who is no longer riding into battle, and has a pair of boots facing backwards in the stirrups.
Lastly, a call referred to as the “end of watch” was played before the silent crowd. Sobs could be heard in between the calls to Sanchez’s radio number: “3-David-8-0-9 … forever off duty,” as heard in a recording played before his casket was carried out of the arena to a light, steady drizzle of rain.