Career soldier buried with honors
HOUSTON — An infantryman and father of three who had returned to Iraq for a second tour of duty was fulfilling a lifelong dream of a military career when he died, relatives say.
Sgt. Jose “Joe” Guereca Jr. was buried with honors Wednesday at Houston National Cemetery. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
“He was the youthful son, the strong brother, the dedicated husband and a loving father. He was an outstanding soldier,” said Brig. Gen. Francis Mahon, who presented the military decorations to family members.
Guereca, 24, of Missouri City, was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. Guereca and Sgt. Pablo A. Calderon, 26, of Brooklyn, N.Y., died Nov. 30 in Fallujah when an improvised explosive device detonated near their military vehicle, the Department of Defense said.
Mahon spoke of Guereca’s courage, dedication and desire to serve his country as about 80 mourners filled a funeral home chapel in Stafford for services. Guereca, who enlisted on Oct. 18, 1999, wrapped up his first tour of duty in Iraq in August 2003. He re-enlisted and was six weeks into his second stint in Iraq when he died.
“He was a man who volunteered to serve the people of his nation, and in so doing, the people of the world,” Mahon said. “We lost Joe Guereca, but his spirit lives on in the hearts and minds of his children and his family. We must not forget Joe, nor what he accomplished in this life, nor what he stood for: liberty, hope, opportunity.”
A graduate of Sugar Land’s Dulles High School, Guereca had three sons — Rolando, 6, and twins Nathan and Angel, both 5. His wife, Patricia, is expecting their fourth child in January.
Guereca’s flag-draped casket was escorted by an Army honor guard at the national cemetery in north Houston. The playing of ‘Taps’ and the reading of the 23rd Psalm by Army Chaplain Harland Merriam followed a gun salute.
Guereca’s cousin, Joeann Avila, said she also plans to join the Army.
“I am very proud of him,” the Thurgood Marshall High School junior said at the service. “I honor him. He was a good man.”