KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) – His time in the U.S. Marine Corp was short. But Wednesday evening an Olathe Marine received a hero’s homecoming.
Gabriel Puchalla, 18, passed away just days short of his 19th birthday.
Whether it was with his siblings cooking for dad on a Father’s Day FOX4 segment back in 2015 or as an Eagle Scout and state qualifying wrestler, Puchalla’s parents say for Gabriel it was all about brotherhood.
Puchalla pre-enlisted in the Marines as a junior at St James Academy.
“He was a warrior, he was true red white and blue,” mother Dana Puchalla said.
He graduated from boot camp at MCRD in San Diego, California in September.
“I said to him are you starting to understand how important it is you are doing what you are doing, our country needs people like you,” father Don Puchalla said.
Pucchalla received his permanent duty station at Camp Lejeune as a radio field operator this year and received a promotion to Lance Corporal March 2nd, around the time his parents say he started to notice he wasn’t feeling quite right.
He died March 10. Wednesday local Marines and his family were waiting at Kansas City International to welcome his flag- draped casket home.
“He was just as healthy as could be and when they did (an autopsy) to find out what happened to him they were just completely amazed and shocked like this makes no sense whatsoever,” his father said.
According to the family a medical examiner determined Puchalla suffered an aortic rupture from the result of an unknown massive tumor while inside his barracks.
“Any loss of life here at 2d Marine Division is a tragedy and we’re devastated by the passing of Lance Corporal Puchalla. He was an invaluable member of the 2d Light Armor Reconnaissance Battalion, a talented Marine and a close friend to many. Our deepest condolences go out to Gabriel’s family, friends, and loved ones. We extend our full support during this difficult time,” LtCol Cassandra Stanton wrote in a statement to FOX4.
“He was with his brothers when it happened,” Puchalla said.
Wednesday those brothers in arms helped deliver him to his rosary and visitation at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Leawood, Kansas, planned for Thursday.
Patriot Guard riders joined in saluting a Patriot who died doing what he loved, if only for a short time.
“He deserves it. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. He’s my hero and always will be,” his mother said.
Funeral Mass is scheduled for noon on Saturday, March 25, 2023, also at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church.