Sunday, July 10, 2011

Army Spc. Rafael A. Nieves Jr

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Rafael A. Nieves Jr., 22, of Albany, N.Y.

Spc. Nieves was assigned to 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; died July 10, 2011 in Paktika province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fires.

Sgt Nieves was supposed to come home in two weeks from his tour of duty in Afghanistan. He would have turned 23 on July 23.

Sgt Nieves moved to Guilderland when he was 14. He attended and graduated from Guilderland High School in 2008. It was there that he met his future wife Sarah.

Sgt Nieves joined the Army in August 2009, arriving at Fort Campbell in December that year. He deployed to Afghanistan last November.

High school friend, Kayla Sacco, said, "He was always the father figure that some of us needed."

"You knew you could go to him and he would cheer you up," said Sacco.

"We were like family in high school. When we were apart we would be lost," said Alyssa Carl.

"We are honored to have known him," said Sacco.

"Beyond proud, I don't think there are words for it," said Carl.

Father, Rafael Nieves Sr., said, "It's terrible, very terrible. I never expected for this to happen, never anticipated it. I wasn't prepared at all. It's something that I will never be able to understand."

Rafael Sr., said the Army was always his son's dream. "He loved his country, always wanted to defend his country, it's all he talked about."

"He will never be forgotten. He left me a precious little grandson on top of giving me a beautiful daughter he had," said Rafael Sr.

Brother, Matthew, says he's comforted by the fact that, when he looks at his niece and nephew, he can't help but think of his older brother.

"They're spitting images of him,' said Matthew. "It's unreal how much he's alive in them."

"I spent 17 years in the same exact room as him," said Matthew. "The main thing to me is just to make sure his memory lives on, and let people know of his legacy."

Rafael Sr. received a message from one of his son's brothers in arms. It said in part, "I want you to know that your son was a hero. He died saving the lives of everyone in our convoy including me."

"Honestly, I think he was the bravest man I know," brother, Matthew said.

Matthew said his brother was returning fire when he was killed.

"That's what matters most to me -- is that he went out a hero doing what he did just to make sure that his squad can get back to their families," said Matthew.

Spc Nieves's awards and decorations include:

Army Commendation Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star
NATO Medal
Natinal Defense Service Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon

Spc Nieves is survived by his mother, Tina; father, Rafael Sr.; wife, Sarah and their children, two-and-a-half year old Emma and newborn son, Rafael A. III

Army Spc. Rafael A. Nieves Jr. was killed in action on 7/10/11.

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