Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Marine Cpl. Julio Vargas

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Cpl. Julio Vargas, 23, of Sylmar, Calif.

Cpl. Vargas was assigned to the 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died July 20, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Just 23, Marine Cpl. Julio Vargas had a lot to look forward to. He had gotten married in December, and he and wife Rosita had purchased a home near Camp Pendleton. His first combat deployment to Afghanistan was coming to an end in September. And Rosita was waiting for him to come home so they could start a family. Before he went overseas, Vargas had asked his dad: "Are you ready to be a grandpa?"

But Vargas was killed Tuesday by a roadside bomb in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. It was just his second day on patrol, according to Adalberto Cruz, a neighbor of 11 years, who joined with other mourners on Thursday outside the Vargas family's townhome in Sylmar.

"He enjoyed doing what he wanted to do," Cruz said. "He was a good kid. He was always smiling and you'd never see him mad or anything. He was always real polite, really outgoing."

Upon receiving news of Vargas' death, his parents and brothers - including his identical twin who serves in the Army Reserves - flew to Portland, Ore., to receive his remains, Cruz said. "It's a tragedy for us all," Cruz said. "This was a shock to us."

After graduating from Sylmar High School, Vargas went to Texas on a mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was through his church that he met his future wife.

"He was so young," said neighbor Jessica Salgado, who recalled playing with Vargas when they were children. "He had so much ahead of him."

In February 2008, he enlisted in the Marines. He was a vehicle gunner assigned to 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force. Vargas' personal service awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

"The Marines and sailors of the 1st Marine Division mourn the loss of Corporal Vargas," said 1st Lt. Ken Kunze in a statement. "Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family."

Vargas stationed at Camp Pendleton and was the second Marine from the base to be killed in Afghanistan this week.

Flags at the state Capitol were flown at half-staff in Vargas' honor.

"Maria and I were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Cpl. Julio Vargas," said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a statement. "He was a real-life hero, one of our nation's bravest individuals, and his service and sacrifice in the name of freedom will not be forgotten."

Marine Cpl. Julio Vargas was killed in action on 7/20/10.

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