Sunday, June 05, 2005

Army Staff Sgt. Justin L. Vasquez

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Justin L. Vasquez, 26, of Manzanola, Colorado.

SSG Vasquez died in Baghdad, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his military vehicle. He was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Carson, Colorado.

Justin Lee Vasquez was born January 26, 1979 in Rocky Ford, Colorado, to Vicki and Tino Vasquez. Justin grew up in Manzanola, Colorado and graduated from high school there in 1997.
After graduation he entered the U.S. Army on August 13, 1997 and was stationed at Ft. Knox, Kentucky with A Troop, 5/15 CAV where he completed Basic Training in December of 1997, he was awarded the Primary Military Occupational Specialty of 19D, Calvalry Scout. He was then stationed at Ft. Polk, Kentucky to serve as a Squad Leader with Troop C, 2nd ACR.

On January 16, 2002, he arrvied at his current unit of assignment, Lightning Troop, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment, stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. Assigned as a Platoon Sergeant, SSG Vasquez deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from March 2003 to March 2004.

After returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom, he was once again deployed with Lightning Troop to Iraq in March 2005 as a Bradley Commander. SSG Vasquez was killed June 5, 2005 by an IED while assisting fellow soldiers that had been previously been attacked by an IED.

SSG Justin Lee Vasquez was recognized as an outstanding NCO by his superiors and peers alike and was beloved by his soldiers.

His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart Medal, the Army Commendation Medal (2nd OLC), the Army achievement Medal (4th OLC), the Army Good Conduct Medal (2nd award), the Global War on Terrorism Expedition Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Air Assault Badge and the Drivers Badge (T).

SSG Justin Lee Vasquez will be remembered for the morale he brought to his unit, for his love of his wife, son and family, and his dedication to his work. He is survived by his loving wife, Riley Nicole Vasquez, his son, Justin David Jasquez. His mother and stepfather, Vicki and Kevin Bosley, his father, Tino Vasquez, his sister and nephew, Jennifer Vasquez and Kaine and his sister Janneke Vasquez.

This was written by fellow Soldiers' Angel, Living Legends team member and mother of Justin Lee Vasquez - Vicki Bosley.

Rocky Mountain
Squadron changed by war
By Bill Johnson

COLORADO SPRINGS - You could see in their faces that they were not the same men. Sure, there was an easily detectable weariness, mostly from the 20-hour-or-so flight they had just completed from Baghdad to Colorado Springs and Fort Carson. Yet there was more to it than that.

Thunder Squadron of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment marched Monday morning in tight formation into the Special Events Center at the Army base here. I had witnessed them march similarly nearly a year ago at their desert base in Kuwait, before loading into their waiting vehicles for the long drive to Baghdad.

A bittersweet homecoming

Riley Vasquez leaned hard into Vicki Bosley as the soldiers entered the center. When a recorded version of the Star-Spangled Banner began playing, she sobbed along with her mother-in-law.

Riley's husband, Staff Sgt. Justin Vasquez, was among the Thunder Squadron dead, having been killed by a roadside bomb last June.

"I've been waiting for this for a long time now," Riley Vasquez, 25, said later, dabbing her eyes. "I think I feel better now."

Why did she come to the ceremony?

"Justin came home today, but just in a different form," she said. "I see a lot of Justin in them, their actions. It's closure for me."

She teared up again.

"I did make one final look into the soldiers' faces, just to make sure he really wasn't there," she said, sobbing again.

Jenn Vasquez, the 28-year-old sister of the dead soldier, said she and her mother came because Thunder Squadron was there for them in their sorrow, and they wanted to be there for them.

"Being here," Jenn Vasquez said, "kind of sealed the deal for me, that Justin is not coming back. Something had to make it a reality, that it is final, and I guess this is it."

"I want to know that it's real," Vicki Bosley said, tears streaming down her face. "I guess my boy really is not coming home."

Justin Vasquez was buried in Manzanola Cemetery on June 14.

As members of Thunder Squadron raced from formation Monday to embrace at long last their wives, husbands and assorted loved ones, the three women stood hugging each other in tears.

Staff Sgt. Gary Baty gripped me with a bear hug when I walked up. There were tears in his eyes. He and Justin Vasquez were the last soldiers we ate with and spoke to in Iraq before returning home last April.

'Whole year changed me'

He invited me by his home, an invitation I readily accepted, knowing that his wife had left him in June, two weeks after Vasquez, his longtime best friend and roommate in Iraq, was killed.

No soldier, a year gone, should go home to an empty house.

His friend's death still grips him.

"I know the whole year changed me," he said matter-of-factly.

"It sounds like a cliché, but no war is worth a guy's dying. Everybody loses when a guy dies. The history book will tell you there are winners and losers, but that is not true. A guy dies, nobody wins."

He remembered clearly those weeks in Kuwait and Iraq when we first met, when the entire squadron was bright-eyed, eager and ready to go to war. It stayed that way until June when Justin Vasquez and two other men from 1st Platoon became the first to die.

"We realized probably a month after that that things were never going back to normal," Gary Baty said. "When guys started dying and getting wounded, it shook the Roman Wall.

"Justin was our best scout, the strongest leader in the toughest job. I existed in his shadow. When he left, it made all of us think it could damn well happen to us on any day."

He did not retreat into the pain, he said. Oh, he would be forgiven for doing so: Vasquez was walking toward his Bradley Fighting Vehicle when the bomb exploded. Gary Baty was tasked with gathering his roommate's body.

"My only comfort is that I know he never knew what happened to him."

Instead of retreating, he and the rest of 1st Platoon became more determined to do their jobs, Gary Baty said.

"People waited for all of us to fall apart, but everybody just dug in, determined not to let it affect our mission. Justin would have wanted it that way."

He figures he will always hear the roadside bombs, the improvised explosive devices (IEDs). He can still hear the roar, even those that went off far from him.

"It's like an old song, how it reminds you of so many different things, things that happened to you there."

He lost exact count of how many targeted him and his Bradley. He and other sergeants not long ago tried to tally them up. They came up with at least 10 to 15 IEDs for every vehicle in the squadron. It is a considerable number of explosions.

Army Staff Sgt. Justin L. Vasquez was killed in action on 06/05/05.


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Anonymous said...

to justin i will never forget you. you were the best friend i ever had we shared so much i will always love you and i will see you in heaven with the rest of the angels because thats what you were to me

Anonymous said...

It was great to serve with the best!!! We all will never forget that day and all the days before that. May you Rest In Peace.