Father Who Lost Son in Mexico Tells Jailed Marine's Family to 'Keep Hope'

Wednesday, 14 May 2014 06:26 AM

By Sean Piccoli

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In a new memoir about the death of his 14-year-old son, first-time author Gene Kiepura describes how his grief was compounded by the difficulties he endured in bringing his son's remains home from Mexico.

With Americans focused on a young U.S. marine jailed in Mexico, Newsmax TV spoke to Kiepura, author of "Back To Tonic," about his own ordeal and how a parent copes with a family crisis that cuts across national borders.

"I don’t speak the language. I had a difficult time maneuvering my way through, and it seemed like every town down there had a different set of rules and demanded more money for one thing or another," Kiepura told "America's Forum" host J.D. Hayworth on Tuesday.

Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, 25, a combat veteran and active reservist, was arrested in March on weapons charges in Mexico. He has family, U.S. officials and members of Congress lobbying for his safe return.

And there is precedent: Mexico freed a jailed Marine under similar circumstances in 2012.

Asked what advice he had for Tahmooressi's supporters, Kiepura made it clear he didn't think his own experience — although "tragic and rough to deal with" — gave him special insight into the case.

"I would say pray because I honestly don't know how to resolve issues down there," he said.

Kiepura's son, Jacob, died with four other people in an accident on a missionary trip to Mexico. He was 14. "Back to Tonic" recounts the loss and Kiepura's own quest, in which compassionate strangers proved more helpful than local officials and American Embassy bureaucrats.

Through several days' worth of twists and turns, Kiepura finally succeeded in bringing his son's remains home. His struggle to cope with Jacob's death was just beginning. The book details Kiepura's return to stability and to a faith he almost abandoned.

"I came to discover a much different God than the God I thought I knew," Kiepura said.

"Back to Tonic," the novel's title, is how musicians describe a composition resolving itself by returning to its root — the note or chord that defines the composition's key. Kiepura, a retired railway company employee and a Christian motivational speaker, picked up the phrase while learning to play guitar.

To the Tahmooressi family, "I would certainly say keep hope and keep faith," he said.

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