MIAMI (AP) â€” Two Cuban exile pilots who died in the Bay of Pigs invasion have been buried 39 years after they crashed while fighting to topple Fidel Castro's communist regime.
Crispin Garcia and Juan de Mata Gonzalez died in the mountains of Nicaragua when their bomber crashed trying to land at a secret airfield on April 18, 1961, three days after U.S. aircraft began bombing Cuban air bases. Both were 26.
Their remains were found a year and a half ago, then sent to a military office in Hawaii that works to identify remains using dental and medical records. Surviving family members were asked to submit DNA samples for comparison with the remains of the two pilots, who belonged to Brigade 2506.
The two pilots were buried Saturday, after being formally honored with a Veterans Day funeral by various organizations in Miami's Cuban exile community.
``We are temporarily burying our brothers in the land of freedom, until the day we can take them to a free Cuba, democratic and independent,'' said Juan Perez-Franco, president of the Bay of Pigs veterans' association.
Family members of both pilots attended the services, including Garcia's son, Franklin, who was 5 when he last saw his father. He read from a letter his father had written to him nearly 40 years earlier.
``You are going to be five, but I won't be with you ... but that doesn't mean that I don't love you,'' Garcia wrote. ``You will receive a lot of gifts ... but my gift will be a Free Cuba.''
It took seven years for Janet Ray Weininger, founder of the humanitarian group Wings of Valor, to find and retrieve Garcia's and Gonzalez's remains.
``It's a code of loyalty to bring them home,'' Weininger said. ``You must take care of those who fought for the freedom that we all enjoy. And what it means to the families is incredible.''
On the Net:
Bay of Pigs Veterans Association: http://home.earthlink.net/(tilde)fmarquet
Brigade 2506: http://www.brigada2506.com
Wings of Valor: http://www.wingsofvalor.org