Remembering Specialist Marisol Heredia.
In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, when you look up the words "courage",
"strength", and "determination" you will find the following:
: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger,
fear, or difficulty
1: the quality or state of being strong : capacity for exertion or endurance
3 a: the act of deciding definitely and firmly; also : the result of such an
act of decision b: firm or fixed intention to achieve a desired end <a woman
of great courage and determination.
I am convinced that instead of those three descriptions, there should be a
photo of my hero, Specialist Marisol Heredia.
I didn't know Marisol personally, but I knew of her and since her passing I
have learned about her. She served with my husband in the 15th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division out of Fort Hood,
Texas. The unit had left Texas in October of 2006 to begin their deployment
as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Marisol became injured on July 18, 2007 while refueling a generator. She
ended up being very badly burned and was transported to Brooke Army Medical
Center in San Antonio, Texas. I cannot even begin to describe how scared I
was once I had heard of the incident. Scared for Marisol and scared for her
family. If you aren't a religious person before hearing of an incident like
hers, you become one. I found myself praying more prayers daily -- for
Marisol, for her family, for her doctors and for our unit. Though badly
burned, she had the courage and strength to fight her injuries and not
succumb to them shortly after they happened. She was determined to fight
off the pneumonia that had set in, and did. She fought every single day to
gain strength beyond what she already had in her soul in order to battle the
injuries. She was strong, she had courage, and she was determined.
Unfortunately, Marisol did end up succumbing to her injuries on September 7,
2007. She was 19 years old. 9 days later, on September 16, 2007; she was
buried in Louisiana on what would have been her 20th birthday.
I believe it was in early October, when a memorial service was held for her
and the other fallen 1st Cav Soldiers from the month of September 2007 at
the Cav Chapel on Fort Hood. I was in attendance for that and will never
forget it. Approximately 18 soldiers were memorialized that day. Several
of whom had family members in attendance. One by one, fellow soldiers gave
eulogies of the fallen. Every now and then, there would be a memory to make
someone chuckle, and soon after tears would be seen falling down the cheeks
of those sitting in the chapel -- mine included. There were so many
thoughts running through my head during that 1.5 hours in the chapel. I
found myself thinking of their families, of the kids left behind, of those
that were still in Iraq (including my now husband, but then fiance'), and of
those that would never have the opportunity to meet them and be honored to
do so. One of the hardest parts that day was the roll call and 21 gun
salute that began after the memorial service. It was something that I had
not expected and definitely not something that I had prepared for. One by
one, a Sergeant First Class called off names of soldiers in attendance, and
then would call those who were not there. Suddenly, after hearing, "Here
First Sergeant!" you'd hear the Sergeant First Class call, "Specialist
Heredia... " and nobody answered. So he once again says, "Specialist
Marisol Heredia... " and nobody answered. And a final time he says,
"Specialist Marisol Heredia!" There was no answer, nobody in the room by
that name to say, "Here First Sergeant!" Tears streamed down my face and I
lost my composure during that moment -- just as I am now while writing about
it and remembering it, and just as I do everytime we went to the 1st Cav
Memorial on Fort Hood and the Central Texas Veterans Cemetery Memorial near
Killeen, Texas and I see her name and photo.
As stated previously, I never had the honor to formally meet Marisol. I
wish I had though. From what I know; she was strong, she was full of
courage and she was determined. I will never forget her and the impact that
she has made on my life.