CHEYENNE — Coby Saucedo didn’t get to study chemical engineering in college like he’d already started talking about.
He didn’t even make it to his 13th birthday.
But Saturday, he became an honorary Marine.
“Coby was the epitome of a Marine,” Larry Poch, and associate member of the League of Cheyenne, said.
“He always stood up for the weak and the small. He was always a friend to everybody that needed a friend. He lived like a young marine.”
Coby, a 12-year-old sixth-grader at Afflerbach Elementary School in south Cheyenne, completed suicide April 5 at a Laramie County residence.
Poch, a longtime family friend, set the honor in motion. After Coby died, he reached out to the League here to see if there was anything the group could do to honor him because his dad served as an active duty marine.
The league voted and decided unanimously to name Coby an honorary Marine.
“The is a brotherhood and a sisterhood,” Dawn Gay, the league’s adjutant, said.
“Whatever we can do to take care of one of our own or to let them know that they’re loved and appreciated — that’s what we do.”
The title is rare, and it’s the first time the local league has given it out.
“(Being) a Marine is something you earn, it’s not something that’s given,” Commandant Rob Coutier said.
“If it’s a Marine family, then that’s what we do.”
Coby’s dad, AJ Saucedo, served as an active-duty Marine in Hawaii for three years and said his son wanted to be a Marine when he grew up.
Now, Coby’s headstone will feature the Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem, his dad said, and an official uniform donated by the League and displayed in a large shadow box will hang in Saucedo’s home.
The group also presented the Cheyenne Animal Shelter with a $100 donation in Coby’s name because he loved animals.
Gay said Coby’s title of honorary marine means he “is now a Marine in our eyes and will always be remembered as one of us.”
“One of the reasons this is so close to our hearts,” she said, “(is because) several members of our league have lost their own child. I’ve lost mine, (Coutier has) lost his. We’ve all lost them in different ways. So when we hear about a child, our hearts kind of go out.”
Gay said it’s also important to spread the message to children “that no matter how bad it seems at the moment, there’s always someone who can help you through it.”
“Please, seek out that person to go through it,” she said. “If you’re being bullied, go to somebody. Get that help.
Because we do not want to see another child feel like all is lost,” Gay said.
Poch said he doesn’t think kids truly understand there’s no “reset” button in life.
“When you punch that button — or, worse yet, you pull that trigger — that’s it,” he said. “That’s it.”
“And they have no understanding whatsoever of the gigantic hole that’s left behind. Yes, their problems are over permanently, but so is their life. (And) there’s this huge family that’s left with this whole that you could drive a tank through.”
The ceremony Saturday morning at American Legion Post 6 on East Lincolnway was brief but meaningful for those who were there.
It started with a prayer said by League of Cheyenne chaplain Jeanne Romanowicz.
“Times like these are always difficult,” Romanowicz said. “Emotions consume us; our hearts are hurting; we feel as though the tears will never stop.
“But we can take comfort in your care: that your loving arms are around us today and always; that Coby is happy and walking on the streets of gold in heaven. Let us find joy in our endeavors today, we are lifting up Coby’s memory, returning him to your loving care.”
Gay concluded the ceremony by addressing several kids in the audience.
“Hopefully you guys can take something away from this,” she said. “Knowing that when we lose someone, no matter their age, how they leave us, they leave a hole in our heart.
“And hopefully you can be there for your parents and for AJ and his family to let them know that they are loved and cared for.”
Margie Rood, AJ Saucedo’s mother, said the honor bestowed on her grandson was heartwarming.
“My son couldn’t ask for anything more,” she said as tears navigated the lines of her face.
“We just appreciate all the support that he can get. We’ve been blessed with family, with friends, with the community, and I just hope, you know, now that this has happened, maybe the school will realize what’s going on and what happened.”
Saucedo, who works in Cheyenne as a receiver at the Wal-Mart Distribution Center, said he’s proud of his son and happy the League of Cheyenne took the time to honor him in the way the group did.
“I had no idea that they were presenting all this,” he said. “The shadow box was way more than I expected. It hit me pretty hard. I think (Coby) would have loved it.”
In an interview with the Wyoming Tribune Eagle last week, Saucedo described his son as an academically strong student who also was active in sports, had an “awesome sense” of humor, was popular with his peers and school staff, and loved to entertain students waiting in line for the bus by playing his saxophone.
Saucedo said he hopes more can be done about bullying and holding bullies accountable beyond passing policies and putting procedures in place.
He said his son had a lot to offer, “but it got smothered by a darkness” that no one — family, friends, school staff, seemed to know the extent of.
“I’m not saying it’s a bad system,” Saucedo said.
“I’m just saying it’s not good enough.”
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