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Army Sgt. Joseph Blanco, 25, Bloomington; Among 3 Killed by Roadside Bomb

April 30, 2006|Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writer

At first, Joseph Blanco's family was surprised when he announced in 2003 that he was joining the Army. And then, the more they thought about it, the more it made sense.

He had always been interested in the military, from the time he owned a GI Joe as a child. He drew tanks, loved karate movies and for years prepared himself physically to be a soldier.

"This is what he wanted to do," said his older sister, Candy. "Not that he wanted to do it forever, but he wanted it to be part of his life."

Army Sgt. Joseph Blanco, 25, of Bloomington, Calif., was among three soldiers killed April 11 when a roadside bomb detonated near their Bradley fighting vehicle and they were then attacked with small-arms fire in Taji, Iraq, north of Baghdad, according to the Department of Defense. Also killed were Spc. James F. Costello III, 27, of St. Louis and Pfc. George R. Roehl Jr., 21, of Manchester, N.H.

All three soldiers were assigned to the 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at Ft. Hood, Texas.

Blanco was born in Los Angeles, but while he was still young his family moved to Bloomington in San Bernardino County for the quieter life it offered.

The Blancos were among the first Latinos in their new neighborhood, but that didn't deter Joseph, who learned to fit in, his sister said.

Blanco graduated from Bloomington High School in 1998 and then took a job at a book warehouse. He also began preparing himself for what he really wanted: several years in the military followed by a career in law enforcement.

He began weightlifting and in 2000 started training in hapkido, a Korean discipline of martial arts. In 2003, he earned his black belt.

"He just showed up one day and watched and liked what he saw, and fell in love with it," said his instructor, Jada Sanchez, the owner of Kim's Hapkido Karate in Fontana. "He passed his black belt test and left for boot camp the following week. I was really glad it was something he could achieve before he left."

Blanco shipped out to Iraq later that year for his first deployment and returned seven months later. Then, late last year, he learned that he was being redeployed to Iraq and wouldn't be coming home this spring, as he had planned.

He managed to visit home in November.

"It was just before Thanksgiving, and we knew he wouldn't be here for Christmas, when we usually have tamales," his sister said. "So one weekend we had the tamales and then I made him turkey -- so we were able to give him Thanksgiving and Christmas."

Still, he was able to send e-mails to his family every few days, and March 5 he was able to teleconference with them via a computer -- he could see and hear his family but they couldn't see him.

"I put my son up there and he was like, 'Oh, my God, he's gotten so big,' and he said my daughter looked just like me," his sister said. "It was the last time we talked to him."

Blanco's younger sister, Jamie, said: "We grew up very close, because we didn't have a lot of outside family, and so it was just us. He was a good guy, always positive, always in a good mood. He was a very determined person, and whatever he put his mind to he would accomplish."

Said his father, Jose Antonio Blanco: "I have received a lot of calls and mail from other soldiers who knew my son, and they've said that he was both a good friend and a good soldier."

Joseph Blanco was buried Tuesday at Riverside National Cemetery.

In addition to his father and sisters, he is survived by his mother, Cerefina; and a brother, Christopher.

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