El Paso sailor killed after just 7 days in Iraq

From militarycity.com

The Associated Press
EL PASO, Texas — Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Gilbert Minjares Jr. told his brother that if he died in Iraq, he wanted his two children to know he served so they could grow up free and without fear.Minjares, 31, and six others died Feb. 7 — just seven days after he reached Iraq — in a helicopter crash in Anbar province, the Department of Defense said Feb. 9. The cause of the crash is under investigation.“He gave me all his clothes and stuff, like he knew what was going to happen,” said Jose Minjares, Gilbert’s brother. “He told me, ‘If anything happens, I want you to let my kids know I did it for them.’ ”

Minjares is survived by his wife, a 2-year-old son and a 4-week-old baby living in North Carolina, said Eddie Pedregon, the seaman’s cousin. Gilbert Minjares also worked as a recruiter in El Paso, Jose Minjares said.

“He always wanted to give to others before he gave to himself,” Pedregon said. “His dream was to save Marines.”

A corpsman is the Marines’ equivalent of an Army medic.

Minjares was assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, in Cherry Point, N.C.

Minjares played fullback and quarterback at Hanks High School in El Paso. He joined the Navy about a month after graduating in 1994, his brother said.

The seaman was happy-go-lucky, loved his family and his home and had no doubts about his service or heading to Iraq, his brother said.

“He said he’d rather go fight over there than have to fight [terrorism] over here,” the brother said. “He was a brave, brave man.”———–

El Paso Times
EL PASO – Texas – In the shadow of the mountains he loved, a plane carrying the body of Navy medic Gilbert Minjares touches down.
“When he used to fly home into El Paso, he couldn’t wait to see that star on the mountain, because it represented who he was,” says Eddie Pedergon, Gilbert’s cousin.
The plane arrived just before 3:30 Saturday afternoon. Saluting sailors awaited the flag-draped coffin as it was lowered from the plane. Family and friends stood nearby as the coffin was put into a hearse headed for a funeral home. Minjares’ body will be buried in El Paso.

“I don’t think there’d be another choice for him,” says Pedergon. “This is where his family is. This is where he grew up.”

Gilbert is a 1994 graduate of Hanks High School. The 31-year-old was married and had two small children. Minjares was serving his third tour of duty for the Navy, his first in Iraq. Even while Gilbert was overseas, he kept El Paso in his heart.

“He felt a sense of pride in protecting the city of El Paso,” says his cousin. “He felt a personal connection with fighting terrorism over there.”

It was while he was over there that the worst happened. A helicopter Minjares was riding in crashed. Six other service members were also killed. The military says it’s still investigating the crash, but a group linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq is claiming responsibility for shooting down the helicopter. Minjares had only been in the country for a week.

“So now we know he’s home, and we’re able to put him to rest but also celebrate his life,” says Pedergon.

A viewing for Minjares is set for Monday. He will be buried Tuesday.

——-

I was at the airport during that exact time, my flight got in at 3pm.  I don’t know how I missed seeing this sailor arriving.  My prayers are with the family during this difficult time.  

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