ALAMOSA — United States Reserve Marine Lieutenant Colonel Randy Velasquez, a native of Alamosa, suddenly passed away last Monday while working in Stuttgart, Germany, as a contractor for a defense contractor.
Velasquez, a San Acacio native, graduated from Centennial High School in 1987. After graduation he enlisted in the United States Army and attended college at Norwich University in Vermont. In 1992, Velasquez received his bachelors degree in biology from Adams State University and earned his commission in the United States Marine Corps, becoming a naval aviator.
Velasquez went on to pilot training on T-34 airplane and CH-53E in Florida and Texas, getting his wings on May 5, 1995.
Over the next 18 years, Velasquez attained progressively responsible positions at a variety of duty stations throughout the United States, Japan and Germany. He reached his most current Rank of Lt. Col. in 2015. Throughout his career he was involved in many exercises, and projects with focuses worldwide. He became a Reserve Marine in 2016 and resided in Houston, Alaska. Randy was a member of the American Legion in Wasilla, Alaska and the V.F.W.
Due to the unfortunate circumstances of his death, while overseas but not engaged in active military duty, he was not afforded many of the return benefits afforded to active duty members of the armed forces. Fellow Marines across the world began to mobilize to give Lt. Col. Velasquez the dignified return they thought he deserved. His part-time employer, Cubic Corporation of San Diego, California provided the logistical support and funding required to prepare Lt. Col. Velasquez and return him to the US, while the legwork was conducted by a group of current and former Marines, Delta Airlines employees, and other patriotic citizens.
Their driving goal was clear to them all — get Lt. Col. Velasquez home to his family before December 25th, Christmas Day. However, due to timing and heavy travel period, there was the potential that Velasquez would not be home before Christmas.
This is when a fellow Reserve Marine who also was working part-time as a contractor, who happened to be in Stuttgart with Lt. Col. Velasquez, put the call out to his worldwide network of current and former active and reserve Marines via Facebook to assist in any way they could. Immediately private messages, emails, and phone calls from across the ocean put a plan of action into motion.
Within a few hours it was revealed that Velasquez was going to Colorado and immediately channels opened up to the local network of Marines and American patriots to ensure that if the government could not “officially” bestow the honor and dignity of a still serving Reserve Marine, the Marine family and friends would.
Within a day, local non-profits such as the Patriot Guard, Dignity Memorial, Legion Riders, volunteers, city managers from Alamosa and the Town of Center, local law enforcement, and of course, Marine Corps Combat Logistics Battalion 453 based out of Aurora began the planning to receive Velasquez.
Private companies such as Cubic and Global Rescue Operations established a starting point, but it was now up to a multitude of others outside the U.S. to begin the process. The U.S. Consulate office in Frankfurt, Germany expedited their document process. The German funeral home, Ramsaier Bestattungen GmbH, cut their normal preparation timeline from weeks to a mere two days. Everyone was working together to “get this Marine home for Christmas.”
There were roadblocks along the way. Regarding a post-8 p.m. curfew on cargo coming into Colorado Springs, an exemption was granted due to the nature of the cargo and relentless lobbying from former Marine airline pilots, Delta ground and aviation managers and reserve Marines. Strict German customs and security regulations that would normally take weeks to navigate took place in mere days. Even the only casket that the German government would approve, a traditional European one, which the Marine volunteers found unsuitable, was finally replaced with a traditional American-style ceremonial casket.
In the end, the Velasquez family had the opportunity to receive their love one with the utmost respect and care.
Lt. Col. Randy Velasquez is survived by his son and daughter, Johnny and Ellie Velasquez and mother Dorothy Valdez.
A Mass of the Resurrection will be held on Thursday, December 28, at 1 p.m. at the Sangre De Cristo Catholic Church in San Luis. Interment will follow at the San Acacio Cemetery with full military honors. In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Caden Daniel C/O Bree Daniel American Legion Post #35, 5050 Tweed Court, Wasilla, Alaska 99654.