Friday, September 23, 2011

Army Pfc. Carlos A. Aparicio

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Carlos A. Aparicio, 19, of San Bernadino, Calif.;

Pfc Aparicio was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Polk, La.; died Sept. 23, 2011 in Wardak province of injuries caused by an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Sgt. Rafael E. Bigai Baez.

SAN BERNARDINO - Army Pfc. Carlos Aparicio will keep a promise he made to his mom in the weeks leading up to his return from Afghanistan.

Giving into the gentle nudges of Connie Aparicio, the 19-year-old infantryman in his last email to her said he would wear the more formal Army service uniform in which she always wanted to see him.

"He said mom, when I come home, I'm going to be in my dress uniform," Connie Aparicio said. "Make sure you have a camera ready because that's the last time you're going to see me in that uniform."

Known for his piercing brown eyes, softened by a warm smile and the dimples his mother gave him, Carlos Aparicio will come home Wednesday. The youngest of three children, he was killed Sept. 23 in Wardak province. His body will arrive at L.A./Ontario International Airport.

"It's the first time we're going to be able to see him," Connie Aparicio said. "Really see him."

Born to Connie and Hugo Aparicio, Carlos Aparicio was the little brother of Miguel Aparicio, 28, and Maricela Aparicio, 26.

He was marked out at an early age as a high achiever who could accomplish whatever he wanted in life.

His family recalled how, at the age of two, Carlos Aparicio grabbed a pen and tried as hard as he could to help his big sister with homework.

They cherish a report card from Redlands East Valley High School that their youngest boy filled with A's.

But Carlos Aparicio was not an introverted bookworm.

Looking over photos of her son Tuesday night, Connie Aparicio said: "He was a ham. He loved the camera."

Indeed, one could see the soldier mugging for the camera in several photographs - many times posing like a statue gazing off in the distance, his jaw firm, his stout frame thick with young man's muscle.

And he was a jokester too.

Asked if he was taller than his older siblings, they both yelled "Yes!"

He often reminded them of his stature.

"He was always joshing with me, telling me, `How you doing, little brother?"' Miguel Aparicio said.

Carlos Aparicio also excelled as an athlete at Fontana High School, and at Redlands East Valley, where he graduated in 2010.

Upon hearing the news of his death, emails poured into the Aparicio family, including those from coaches at both schools who lauded him as a wrestler, and more so as a young man.

"I felt like I was punched in the chest when I heard the news of his death," wrote Elliott Anderson, a wrestling coach at Redlands East Valley.

It was in his senior year that Carlos Aparicio committed himself to a military life. He wanted combat experience, saying it would make him a better officer, and then he considered a career in law enforcement after the Army.

"He always said `This is what I want..."' Connie Aparicio said. "He knew what he wanted."

He enlisted out of high school in June last year.

Carlos Aparicio was an infantryman with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Polk, La., according to the Fort Drum Public Affairs Office in New York.

After training at Fort Benning, Ga., he went to Fort Polk in January. He deployed to Afghanistan in February.

"From the moment he went over there, all we could do was just have that faith that God would bring him back alive, and if he didn't, we had 19 beautiful years with him," Connie Aparicio said.

It was a cool and overcast Saturday morning at 6 a.m. when a knock at the door stirred Connie Aparicio from her sleep.

She walked into the living room and looked out the window.

"As soon as I saw the two uniforms...I went hysterical," she said. "All I could say was `no, no, no' because I knew."

An Army chaplain and casualty assistance officer stood on the porch.

"It took me a little while to open the door," Connie Aparicio said.

Army Pfc. Carlos A. Aparicio was killed in action on 9/23/11.

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