Brothers fulfill the promise of one fallen.
(Article by Major George Chigi and Captain Kapualani Ampong-Duke. Photos courtesy of 3-1 AD Public Affairs Office, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, 7 JUN 2014.)
Soldiers dressed in full Army Dress Blues filled the front seats of Mountain View High School graduation ceremony on June 7, 2014; a unique sight, even for a city located just outside a military installation. As Lluvia Loeza’s name was called, the Soldiers rose to their feet and rendered a salute.
Lluvia’s brother, Staff Sgt. Roberto Loeza, Jr., was an Infantry Rifle Squad Leader and Headquarters Platoon Sergeant in Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division out of Fort Bliss, Texas. He deployed with the unit to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2011. Before leaving, he made a promise to his youngest sister, Lluvia, that he would be at her graduation to watch her walk the stage.
Roberto died of injuries sustained by indirect fire on May 25, 2012 while serving in Logar Province, Afghanistan.
Roberto’s brother, Esteban, wanted to surprise their sister. He sent out a message through Facebook to Roberto’s old unit asking for volunteers to stand in his place. The call was answered immediately.
Though the majority of the unit is deployed once again to Afghanistan, the Battalion’s rear detachment known as Task Force Stalwart West led by the Battalion Executive Officer, Maj. George Chigi, along with Maj. Christopher Penwarden and Sgt. 1st Class Bernie Brooks, organized a group of Soldiers to attend Lluvia’s graduation.
More than 30 Soldiers from 1-4 Infantry Battalion attended the graduation. Also in attendance were several Soldiers from the Fort Bliss area that knew Roberto well, including Penwarden and Sgt. 1st Class Jason Yeazel.
Lluvia was completely surprised by the Straight and Stalwart Battalion Soldiers who gathered in their Army Service Uniforms. Making the event even more special for her, Major Chigi received permission from the school district’s superintendent to present Lluvia with her high school diploma.
Staff Sgt. William Berry, a member of Charlie Company and a friend and comrade of Roberto, stated that, “Staff Sgt. Roberto Loeza, Jr. was a loving and caring father and family man. His Soldiers held him in very high regard and respected his leadership and presence.”
Lluvia was just as impressive as her older brother; her discipline and drive earned her the distinction of the 4th highest grade point average in her high school. Lluvia’s brother is sure to have been proud to know that Lluvia’s efforts earned her more than $100,000 in college scholarships.
The entire Loeza family was overwhelmed with emotion. They were happy to see so much support from the Straight and Stalwart Battalion for their son and Lluvia. The families of the other graduating students were awestruck by 1-41 Infantry Battalion as it rendered honors to Lluvia, the family, and Roberto.
“It was a very emotional and uplifting event for us and the family. All in all, we fulfilled a fallen Soldier’s promise and we did it with pride and honor and represented the 1-41 Infantry Battalion with nothing but the utmost respect and pleasure doing it for the family,” said Brooks, the Charlie Company First Sergeant.
As the 1-41 Infantry Battalion soldiers gathered to say goodbye to the Loeza family, Berry presented Lluvia with a Straight and Stalwart Battalion coin. These coins are traditionally only given by the Battalion Commander and Command Sergeant Major to Soldiers for extreme excellence in the performance of their duties. Lluvia was also presented with a Bulldog Brigade coin.