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Army Spc. Armando Hernandez, 22, Hesperia; Killed by Bomb

August 08, 2004|Wendy Thermos | Times Staff Writer

Armando Hernandez knew he was going to a dangerous place. But the Army specialist's optimistic outlook on life never wavered during the six months he was stationed in Iraq, his sister said.

The 22-year-old car enthusiast and former Hesperia High School athlete was killed Aug. 1 by a homemade bomb that exploded near his guard post in Samarra, Iraq.

"My brother was always a brave man. He wasn't frightened about going to Iraq. He wanted to serve his country," said his sister, Delia Nava of Hesperia.

Also killed was Army Spc. Anthony J. Dixon, 20, of Lindenwold, N.J.

Maj. Shawn Jirik said the deaths resulted from hostile action. Both men had been assigned to the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 1st Infantry Division in Schweinfurt, Germany.

As of Friday, 925 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the conflict began, including 108 from California.

Friends and family members recalled Hernandez as a fun-loving man devoted to his relatives, and someone who went out of his way to be a buddy to everyone around him.

"He was always laughing," said high school classmate Mario Felix. "He had a party at his house before he went into the Army. All of us from high school were there, talking and joking around and laughing. He was happy about going."

Hernandez sent e-mails to his mother, Martha, and other relatives at least once a week from Iraq that showed his concern for others. "In every e-mail, he said, 'Please give Destiny a hug and a kiss for me,' " Nava said, referring to her 4-year-old daughter. He also encouraged his 12-year-old sister, Raquel Sandoval, to study hard in school and to go to college.

Hernandez often mentioned that he wanted to buy a Hummer as soon as he returned home. He had left behind a green Mazda MX6 that he had spiffed up. "He wanted to make it like a racing car," Nava said. "We were sending him magazines with all the car stuff."

Born in San Gabriel, Hernandez attended schools in Rosemead and El Monte before moving with his family to the high desert city of Hesperia in 1993. He played offensive lineman in high school varsity football and was a member of the track and field team.

After graduating in 2000, he held a shipping and receiving job in Ontario and enrolled briefly at Victor Valley College.

In January 2002, he joined the Army because "he wanted to make something out of his life, and he wanted to see the world," his sister said. He planned to go into law enforcement.

Hernandez liked children and enthusiastically helped Nava change diapers and prepare baby bottles for Destiny. The family last saw him at Christmas while he was on a two-week leave. He was upbeat and kept others in good spirits, Nava said.

"My mother said he was the best son a mother could ever ask for," she said. "He sacrificed so much by being in Iraq so all of us can be here."

Hernandez also is survived by his father, Rosendo; his stepfather, David Sandoval; a brother-in-law, Gilbert Nava; and a niece, Divine Nava.

Funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Monday at Holy Family Catholic Church in Hesperia, followed by burial with full military honors at Desert View Cemetery in Victorville.

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