SAN ANTONIO As the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be under control in the United States, the government of Peru has announced a nationwide quarantine on March 17 that will last until Holy Week. In the midst of Peru’s public health crisis, the family of a US Army veteran from San Antonio struggles to return his remains to the United States.
On March 17, 2021, the Peruvian government announced nationwide quarantine restrictions for Semana Santa (Holy Week) starting April 1, April 4, 2021, the U.S. Embassy in Peru said.
Jesus Urbina Herrera, 57, had resided in Lima, Peru, since 2008. Herrera was in Lima with the aim of connecting with her son and bringing him home to San Antonio.
His family was taken from him and he remained in Peru to try to pick up his son and bring him home to the United States, said Robert Rodriguez, Herreras’ nephew.
Rodriguez said his uncle was a father figure and someone he truly loved.
My uncle was a very good man. He was an optimist, a very intelligent man who was a father figure to me when I was growing up, Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said his uncle called the family to let them know he was feeling unwell and worried he had contracted COVID-19.
He called us on March 14 on a Sunday and told us he was not feeling well and worried it could be COVID. That Wednesday he went to get tested and he also had a chest x-ray, Rodriguez said.
Herrera tested positive for COVID-19 on March 20. Rodriguez said his family had tried everything to get Herrera the medical care he desperately needed.
What made it a little harder to figure it out was, in my mind, I was like, OK, he’s an American citizen, he’s a veteran. Of course, I could give him some help, said Rodriguez.
The Herreras family had no luck in getting him admitted to a hospital in Peru. Rodriguez said the pandemic has saturated medical care facilities in the city of Lima.
We did our best on Saturday to find a hospital in Lima, Peru that could help them, and each hospital told us they didn’t have an ambulance available. They didn’t even have room, Rodriguez said.
Herrera died the next day, March 21. His family has since tried to contact the US Embassy in Peru to help them send his body home.
Rodriguez said the embassy recommended a funeral home and told them they could only help issue a death certificate and the necessary documents they would need to have the body shipped to the United States.
It’s not just two funeral homes and the embassy in Lima, Peru. It is also the construction of a funeral home here to collect his ashes at the airport, said Patricia Reyes, sister of Herreras.
Reyes said it had been an overwhelming process to get his brother home and put him to rest. Since her death, Herrera has had to be transferred to two funeral homes in Lima, increasing the amount of their debt.
The family now needs $ 15,000 to bring Herrera to San Antonio. They said they were also required to hire a local funeral home to receive Herreras’s ashes, as his remains were considered cargo. The family has since created a GoFundMe.
Once they have his ashes, we can go ahead and pick them up, and he can rest forever in Fort Sam as he deserves, Reyes said.
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