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New Braunfels Marine Killed in Afghanistan Will Be Laid to Rest Monday

The body of Marine Sergeant Thomas Spitzer returns home to New Braunfels on Friday.

He was killed in action in Afghanistan on June 25.
The New Braunfels community is taking his loss to heart, not just because he is a local son, but also because his is not the only loss the community has experienced in recent years.

The sun was setting over New Braunfels Wednesday evening as hundreds of people trickled into the Canyon High School football stadium to celebrate the life of Marine Sergeant Thomas Spitzer.

Pete Farias attended the memorial service. He is the uncle of Lance Corporal John Felix Farias who was killed in Afghanistan three years ago.

With a heavy heart, Pete Farias said John Felix Farias was his brother's "only son."
This Marine's loss three years ago was felt all over New Braunfels. Gas stations had signs with respectful good-byes. Businesses displayed flags and yellow ribbons. Conversations were ended with the Marines' "Semper Fi" motto.

That wound felt like it had almost healed. But, it's wide open again with the death of 23-year-old Thomas Spitzer.

The community is again mourning.

Pete Farias said he didn't know Spitzer. But he and his nephew were good friends.

"They went into the Marines on a buddy system," he says. "They joined together the same day."

They also died in the same place, the same week of the same month, almost three years apart.

This was Sergeant Spitzer's second deployment.

By all accounts, he was a fine guitar player. So, at his memorial service, it was up to his friend Lucas Taylor to play the national anthem on an electric guitar, the way Thomas Spitzer would've enjoyed it.

The crowd stood in silence, right hands over their hearts.

Spitzer's parents and fiancée also stood. A Marine escort surrounded them.

Spitzer and his high school sweetheart were to be married next April.

When they met, he was a football player.

Coach Les Davis fought tears as he addressed the crowd. "I've been coaching football for 35 years," he said. "A lot of times you try to sugar coat things. But, I can honestly say this is true, that no athlete I've ever coached worked any harder than Thomas Spitzer."

Davis and other friends of Spitzer's talked about his character and his wide, bright smile. They talked about how he took the time to visit with each of his friends when he was on break from deployment.

They talked about his family's public service. His father works for the sheriff's department. And his mother works for the local school district.

Friends also talked about how strong he was.

If anyone could've survived Afghanistan, it would've been him. But he didn't, so Coach Davis delivered a teachable moment to the New Braunfels community.

He looked straight into the crowd and said, "don't be afraid to tell someone you love them. It’s important." He then cleared his throat and paused. Then he told his wife and kids how much he loved them, because, as he said "life is way too short…especially for some."

His burial will be on Monday. Flags at the Capitol in Austin and all Texas and U.S. flags in New Braunfels will be flown at half-staff in his honor. 

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.