1-77th FA Soldier Operation Iraqi Freedom Casualty

By Dan Blottenberger, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Wednesday, April 8, 2009

SCHWEINFURT, Germany — Soldiers, friends and family gathered Tuesday to mourn the loss of one of their own during a memorial ceremony at the Ledward chapel on Ledward Barracks.

Sgt. José Escobedo Jr., 32, died March 20 at Forward Operating Base Kalsu from injuries sustained in a noncombat-related incident, according to a military news release. Details of the incident have not been released.

Escobedo, who was serving at Patrol Base Hamiyah, south of Baghdad, with 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, was remembered during the ceremony as a man who dedicated his life to the military, his family and his friends.

After serving 10 years in the Marine Corps, Escobedo enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served as a company fire support sergeant, forward observer and radar operator.

Staff Sgt. Shawn Johnson, a close friend of the Escobedo family, smiled during his eulogy, remembering Escobedo’s humor when he would see a soldier doing something that he disliked. He would say something like that would not happen in the Marine Corps.

"I would just respond by saying, ‘You’re not a Marine anymore,’ " Johnson said.

"‘Once a Marine always a Marine,’ would be José’s response," recalled Johnson.

Escobedo would take the same attitude playing pickup games of basketball with Johnson.

"He was always the one little guy on the basketball court going against a giant," Johnson said with a smile.

"José used to always tell me he was going to get me next time we played," he said. "He would say he was going to dunk on me next time."

Johnson then paused while remembering his friend and said he would miss playing ball with him.

Johnson said Escobedo was a great family man and neighbor when they lived together in the same housing complex on post.

"You can really see a reflection of his character in his family," Johnson said following the ceremony.

During the ceremony, a letter by Escobedo’s commander in Iraq, Lt. Col. Steve Miska, was read. The letter said that Miska had talked with Escobedo’s wife, Angelica, after her husband died.

Angelica Escobedo told Miska that she was grateful to José’s fellow soldiers who were still serving in Iraq.

"Thank you for all of the last moments you shared with my husband. Make the most of the time you have with your loved ones. You never know how much longer you have with them," she was quoted as saying.

Escobedo, of Albuquerque, N.M., is also survived by his three children, Elvira, José and Miguel.