Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Army Staff Sgt. Marc A. Arizmendez

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Marc A. Arizmendez, 30, of Anaheim, Calif.

SSgt. Arizmendez was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, Hohenfels, Germany. He died July 6, 2010, at Qalat, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Specialist Roger Lee, 26, of Monterey, California and Private First Class Michael S. Pridham, 19, of Louisville, Kentucky.

ANAHEIM, California – Army Staff Sergeant Marc A. Arizmendez was remembered Saturday as an energetic and sensitive man with a can-do attitude, a doting husband and father who could flash his wry, dimpled grin and make everyone feel instantly comforted.

He loved the Army and all of the opportunities and challenges it afforded him, and was transformed by those experiences, said his older brother, Al, at a 75-minute memorial service at St. Boniface Catholic Church in downtown Anaheim.

The shadows of veterans line the walkway leading to St.Boniface Church in Anaheim, as they gathered to show support for fallen soldier, Army Staff Sargeant Marc A. Arizmendez at a memorial service in Anaheim. His brother,George Arizmendez said he was deeply touched by the more than two dozen supporters holding flags.

He came back to us a new and better man," Al Arizmendez told about 200 mourners. "He found it comfortable, exciting, and the Army offered him ways to teach. He was richer in that way, more than many people I know."

Arizmendez, 30, lost his life July 6, 2010, in Qalat, Afghanistan, when the vehicle he was traveling in was bombed by insurgents. Two of his comrades – Specialist Roger Lee, 26, of Monterey, California, and Private first Class Michael S. Pridham, 19, of Louisville, Kentucky – also were killed in the blast.

Family members said Arizmendez had a transforming effect on their lives, as they watched a "rabble-rouser" who nearly joined a gang in middle school grow up to become a focused, compassionate man intensely devoted to military service and his family.

"I'm going to dedicate the few things in my life that mean something to me" to him, said Al Arizmendez, 44. "I want him right there, in the front of my mind."

From now on, Al Arizmendez said, every time he smiles for a photo, he will say "Hey chief!" instead of "Cheese!" in honor of the standard greeting his brother used.

Saturday's memorial services were presided over by Father Timothy Freyer of St. Boniface Catholic Church, who led Mass.

Arizmendez's mother, Amelia, sat in the front row and kept her hands clasped in silent, tearful prayer throughout much of the service. She attends St. Boniface weekly, Al Arizmendez said, and is president of the St. Boniface chapter of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic charity organization.

Arizmendez's two brothers and two sisters participated in the Mass, reading Biblical passages and offering up prayers as mourners quietly dried their eyes.

"He was willing to lay down his life for each of us, for the friends whom he knew by name and the millions he did not know," Freyer said during the Mass. "We give thanks for Marc and (all the others) who are willing to lay down their life for us."

Arizmendez is the 55th service member from Orange County to die in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2002, according to Register records.

Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle and Anaheim Police Chief John Welter were among the guests Saturday, and about 25 members of St. Boniface's choir stood in the back, leading mourners in singing hymns, including "On Eagle's Wings" during Communion.

"And He will raise you up on eagle's wings," mourners sang, "bear you on the breath of dawn, make you shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of His hand."

Saturday's service was for Arizmendez's local family and friends. His remains are at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, and he will be buried August 11 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia with full military honors, Al Arizmendez said.

Marc Andrew Arizmendez was born March 30, 1980, in Hollywood, the youngest of five children. He grew up in Monterey Park, but his mother transferred him to St. Catherine's Military Academy in Anaheim after he was nearly initiated into a local gang in middle school. The family eventually moved to downtown Anaheim to be closer to St. Catherine's, and Arizmendez completed seventh and eighth grades there.

Arizmendez attended Schurr High School in Montebello, then completed an automotive certificate program at Fullerton College. Although he initially had little interest in military service, he decided he wanted to join the Army when he was 17.

He enlisted in the Army about six months after graduating high school, Al Arizmendez said. One of his demands upon enlisting was that he be sent to Germany, the home of his favorite car, the Volkswagen.

He was assigned to the 1st Batallion, 4th Infantry Regiment in Hohenfels, Germany, where he met his wife, Barbara, a native of Germany. They married secretly, without telling Arizmendez's family in advance, Al Arizmendez said, and together had two children – Jenny, 8, and Justin, 7.

Arizmendez completed a one-year tour of duty in Iraq in 2005; his deployment to Afghanistan was his first.

Arizmendez's wife and kids still live near the Army base in Germany and were unable to attend Saturday's service, although they will be at his military funeral next month at Arlington National Cemetery.

Mourners remembered Arizmendez on Saturday as a goofy, independent-minded teenager who loved to rebuild cars in his mother's garage, especially old VWs. His mother still has a 1970s-era Golf and Beetle in her garage.

Family members also recalled Arizmendez's unwavering devotion to his wife and kids. Those sentiments are echoed by his wife, Barbara, whose heartfelt postings on Facebook just a week before his death poignantly illustrate that love.
"Didn't sleep all night, and now I'm soooooooooooooooo tired!" Barbara Arizmendez wrote on June 29, alternating between German and English. "I miss my husband. You know how it is. I sometimes have such nights when he's not there."

About 12 hours later, she posted again, this time with happier news: "I knew I was gonna sleep good tonight, but now even better! Marc called, it felt soooooooooo good to talk to him!"

After the service, Al Arizmendez recalled how his kid brother – 14 years his junior – referred to himself as "Cram," which is Marc spelled backwards, and wore baggy pants, listened to speed metal music and drank Monster energy drinks.

"My brothers and sisters and I are planning Cram-apalooza," he said with a chuckle, referring to the famous Lollapalooza music festival. "We're going to drink Monsters and listen to speed metal."

Arizmendez is survived by wife Barbara, children Jenny and Justin, mother Amelia, father Albert, and siblings Al, George, Ada and Jackie.

Army Staff Sgt. Marc A. Arizmendez was killed in action on 7/6/10.

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