It was a 91-year-old tragedy that brought them together on the hot July 13 day.
A few miles in the Wharton State Forest holds a monument that continues to bring two neighboring nations together.
This year’s memorial service for Capt. Emilio Carranza brought together council members and Legion Post members from neighboring towns, ambassadors of Mexico from New York, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, and an abundance of residents from Tabernacle to Mexico.
In July of 1928, Carranza of the Air Corps of the Army of Mexico was flying from New York on his way to Mexico City when a violent storm arose over the Pine Barrens, where he crashed to his death.
“The 20-year-old Mexican captain had a very clear mission in mind when he started heading north on his flight from our nation of Mexico to our neighbor the United States of America. Capt, Carranza’s goodwill mission was both humble and noble in nature; to strengthen the tides of two great nations,” said Luis Gaxiola Baqueiro II, who represents the Carranza family in the United States and in Mexico.
When news of his death reached the county, the Mount Holly Post mobilized its resources and set out on the 25-mile trek to recover the young airman’s body. A path had to be cut through the dense underbrush to carry Carranza’s body out of the forest. The plane had been scattered over many acres.
When they returned to Mount Holly, the Legion mounted a Guard of Honor around the body and was later joined by officers of the U.S. Army until the body was removed by representatives of the Consulate General of New York. A detail of Legionnaires accompanied the body all the way to Mexico City.
When the casket left Mount Holly for its last journey to Mexico City, it was draped with a United States flag from Mount Holly Post 11. That flag hangs today in Mexico’s School of Aviation.
On July 12, 1929, one year after the death of Carranza, the Mount Holly Post conducted the first memorial service at the place where he crashed. From then, what was once known as Sandy Ridge became known as Carranza Memorial Park.
“This is my 11th time to be here and I come, as I know you do, to pay our respect to this brave and courageous man. His father said it best when he said, ‘the tribute which the people of the United States gives to my son are given to him not only because he was a soldier but, because he was a servant who was on a mission to unite our two countries in goodwill, never before and never since,’” said Shamong Township Mayor Michael Di Croce in a speech during the memorial.