Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Army Sgt. Raymond C. Alcaraz

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Raymond C. Alcaraz, 20, of Redlands, Calif.

Sgt. Alcaraz was assigned to the 173rd Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Bamberg, Germany; died Aug. 31, 2010 in Logar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Vinson B. Adkinson III, Pfc. Matthew E. George and Pfc. James A. Page.

Ray was only 20 years old, but had a lot of combat experience as a medic for the 173rd Airborne. He enjoyed medicine and wanted to be a nurse or physician’s assistant when he left the military.

He was a 2006 graduate of Redlands Senior High School in CA. and enlisted in the Army the following summer.

Having been stationed in Germany then deployed to Afghanistan, Ray noted on his MySpace page that he misses his family the most. His heroes included God, Jesus, his brother and his Mom. It is also evident from this page that he was a young man of great faith. Below is a poem taken from his page:

When I say... "I am a Christian" I'm not shouting "I'm clean livin'." I'm whispering "I was lost, Now I'm found and forgiven." When I say... "I am a Christian" I don't speak of this with pride. I'm confessing that I stumble and need Christ to be my guide. When I say... "I am a Christian" I'm not trying to be strong. I'm professing that I'm weak And need His strength to carry on. When I say... "I am a Christian" I'm not bragging of success. I'm admitting I have failed And need God to clean my mess. When I say... "I am a Christian" I'm not claiming to be perfect, My flaws are far too visible But, God believes I am worth it. When I say... "I am a Christian" I still feel the sting of pain. I have my share of heartaches So I call upon His name. When I say... "I am a Christian" I'm not holier than thou, I'm just a simple sinner

Raymond’s plans and his mission ended August 31, 2010 in Logar province, Afghanistan, when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. Three other soldiers in the vehicle also were killed. All were with the 173rd Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Bamberg, Germany. Alcaraz was on his 50th mission as a medic.

First Sgt. Richard Carullo was unable to hold back his emotions Monday as he remembered four of his soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan on Aug.31.

“Heaven just gained a highly skilled fire team to defend the Pearly Gates,” he said. “I will never be the same after this — they will be dearly missed.”

Staff Sgt. Vinson B. Adkinson III, 26, of Harper, Kan., Sgt. Raymond C. Alcaraz Jr., 20, of Redlands, Calif., Spc. Matthew E. George, 22, of Grantsboro, N.C.; and Spc. James A. Page, 23, of Titusville, Fla., died in Logar province of injuries sustained after their vehicle was attacked by a roadside bomb.

The soldiers were assigned to 173rd Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team stationed in Bamberg.

Letters from the soldiers’ friends were read during the ceremony.

Sgt. Erick Detrick said in his letter that there were too many memories of his friend Alcaraz to fit into the time he had.

“Yeah, he was short and he always posted song lyrics on his Facebook,” Detrick wrote. “He stared at himself in the mirror at the gym and would flex and always make you look at him and tell him how big he was.”

The two had just recently started talking about what they’d do when they got out of the Army. “We made plans,” he said. “Now I have to make new ones. He had also just asked me to be the one to pin his rank on his chest when he got promoted. I was honored and proud when he asked me to do that,” Detrick said.

Army Sgt. Raymond C. Alcaraz Jr. is being remembered as a man who usually had a smile on his face. "All he wanted was to make everyone happy around him," said his brother Lucas Gonzales.

His stepfather, Paul Murphy, of Redlands, said Alcaraz enlisted at 17 after graduating from Redlands High School. He wanted to serve four years and then train to be a firefighter. "Ever since a he was a boy he loved the military," said Murphy, a former Navy man. Alcaraz excelled during his three years as a soldier.

"He did army medic school and airborne (training) by the time he was 18," Murphy said, calling it an unusual feat. He entered the same unit his brother Gonzales was in. "Probably less than 1 percent of soldiers get to say they fought and served with their brother in the same unit," said Gonzales, 33, of Redlands. But because of their close bond, it seemed only appropriate.

"We were just so proud of each other," Gonzales said. It was that way even in their younger years. "There was never any type of rivalry or jealousy. He would surprise me every time with what he had accomplished. That's what I'm going to miss the most about him."

As a medic, Alcaraz took care of the sick and injured. But his concern went beyond those in uniform. Murphy said his stepson spent a lot of time helping Afghan children. "He would always come home and tell us that he'd helped another kid," he said. "He was probably saving more Afghan kids than he was anyone else." A photo Murphy has shows Alcaraz in full battle gear, smiling in the middle of a group of children.

"Raymond was very giving and loving," said his mother, Alma Murphy.

Murphy said he hopes those who knew his stepson will remember him for "his fun-loving attitude. He had a zest for life. He loved his family. He loved the Lord."

His mother said her son's faith gives her comfort. "To take your last breath here on earth is to take your first breath in heaven," she said. "That gives me peace."

Alcaraz's military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and two Army Achievement Medals. National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Overseas Service Medal, Army Achievement Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster) the Combat Medic Badge, the Parachutist Badge, and NCO Professional Development Ribbon.

Alcaraz also is survived by his father, Raymond Alacaraz Sr. of Fontana.

Firefighters and more than 100 motorcycles escorted the body of Army Sgt. Raymond Alcaraz home on Saturday, September 11th. Firefighters lined freeway overpasses and Citrus and Brookside avenues, and rode behind a hearse carrying Alcaraz's remains.

Groups of people lined the route from the University Street exit from the 10 Freeway to Emmerson-Bartlett Memorial Chapel.

"You've got to be here. He's one of our own," said Redlander Patti Ransom, who watched the motorcade as it passed Redlands High School, Alcaraz's alma mater.

Engines from the Redlands Fire Department and other agencies as well as police cars parked on the route from the exit to the mortuary.

People stood in the shade on Citrus Avenue near the YMCA and the Redlands Mall parking lot, many holding American flags or flying them from their vehicles. Ken and Pat Cheuvront drove from Riverside to watch the motorcade. "I've always wanted to do this," said Pat, who stood with Ken at RHS. Ransom said it was especially emotional because it was Sept.11. "It probably made a few more people do something patriotic," said Craig Donor, Southern California state captain of the Patriot Guard Riders.

Army Sgt. Raymond C. Alcaraz was killed in action on 8/31/10.

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