Sunday, July 10, 2011

Marine Lance Cpl. Norberto Mendez Hernandez

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Norberto Mendez Hernandez, 22, of Logan, Utah

LCpl Mendez Hernandez was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died July 10, 2011 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Lcpl Mendez-Hernandez graduated Logan High. He worked in a Logan cheese factory until joined Marines couple years ago He joined the Marines April 2010. This was first deployment.

Brandt Anderson, who met Mendez Hernandez at Gossner Foods, where the two men worked, said once he enlisted, Mendez-Hernandez was all in. He had Marine stickers on the windows and bumper of his truck. He worked out with his recruiter. He even had a list of military lingo posted by his work station so he could bone up, Anderson said.

"He was just really strong-willed," Anderson said. "Once he decided something, whether you liked it or not, that was what he was going to do."

Darin Allen, Hernandez’s supervisor at Gossner Foods for two years, said that Mendez Hernandez "had that kind of personality that radiated friendliness."

Hernandez was a filler operator. He worked at the beginning of the production line that folds the paper cartons that are then filled with shelf-stable milk. Gossner Foods supplies the military, and the Marine was photographed taking a gulp from one of his former employer’s cartons.

"He got a big kick out of that," Allen said.

As an employee, Hernandez was hard-working, Allen said. "If he ever made a mistake, he was the first one to admit it. He would ask how to improve."

"He had this commitment that he wanted to do something. He wanted to be a Marine because they’re the best," said Allen. "He wanted to be part of something bigger."

"He always had a dream of being a Marine. Out of all of us, his friends, he was the one who actually went out and lived his dream," friend Victor Estrada said. "I'm really proud of him. He actually stood up for what he believed in."

"He was a really good guy he was courageious, he was always happy, believed in what he wanted, he was a very good example of what I would like to become one day as well", said Victor.

Cousin Jesus Mendez said, "He was always a happy kid. Ever since he was small, he always talked about joining the Marines. He went out living his dream, you know. He was a happy guy, remember him as a hero, as a good friend."

Jesus said the two talked on the phone before Mendez-Hernandez deployed: "The conversation that nobody wants to have. He wanted me to promise him that if anything like this ever happened, that I would help his wife out with his kids, help the kids to grow up and be nice people, good people."

Staff Sgt. Denver Sugano, Mendez-Hernandez's recruiter, said Mendez-Hernandez was a hard worker and always did what he was told. Mendez-Hernandez is the first of Sugano's recruits to be killed while in a combat area.

"He was close to the guys that I put in," Sugano said. "They all know about his death already. They're torn up right now."

"He was born to be a Marine and serve his country," Staff Sgt. Sugano said.

"Norbert, he was his own person...just positive, happy and outgoing, that's Norbert", said friend, Brenda Loyo

"We tried to convince him [not to go] and said 'hey you know something could happen,'" said Carlos Rosales, a friend of Hernandez. "He was one of those who, as soon as he set his mind to something, he's going to do it. We tried to convince him and he said no. He said he'll be okay, nothing will happen to him."

"You never think this will happen so close to home," said Maria Mendez, a cousin of Hernandez. "He was never in a bad mood, he was always in a good mood with his family. Something you don't see very often," she explained.

Parents said their son often read the Bible, and believed God wanted him to serve his country. "He would say, ‘I’m not happy with just my family being happy. There are kids suffering in other countries and I want to help,’" said his mother through an interpreter.

"I would tell him there are other ways to help your country."

His father even threatened, at one point, to join the military if the son did. So Mendez Hernandez put his dad in a headlock to prove he wasn’t fit enough.

Friend, Krystal Rosales, said the Mendez-Hernandez and his wife had intended to return to Logan this fall to baptize their daughter and had asked the Rosaleses to be the godparents. "He’ll be here in spirit," she said.

Victor Estrada said his memory keeps going back to that day at the start of sixth grade when they first laid eyes on each other.

Estrada told Mendez Hernandez he looked like Frankenstein. Mendez Hernandez retorted that Estrada looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. The principal broke up the fight before either landed a punch. The two became friends after being partnered on a science project that year.

Estrada said they would swim at Hyrum Reservoir, boat on Bear Lake, play paint ball in Logan Canyon, wrestle and play video games such as "Modern Warfare" and "Black Ops."

"He was a fighter in every way," said Estrada

Lcpl Mendez-Hernandez's awards and decorations include:

Purple Heart
Combat Action Ribbon
Select Marine Corps Reserve Medal
Armed Forces Reserve Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal
Sea Service Deployment Ribbon

Lcpl Hernandez is survived by his parents, Maria and Norberto; wife, Lorena, and two children, 2 year old son, Anthony, and 9 month old daughter, Audrey; brother, Thomas and three other siblings.

Marine Lance Cpl. Norberto Mendez Hernandez was killed in action on 7/10/11.

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