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Old 01-13-2010, 01:41 PM
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LCpl Mark David Juarez, USMC, 23, San Antonio, TX (Afghanistan)

Fallen Marine felt duty to serve country
By Scott Huddleston - Express-News

Lance Cpl Mark David Juarez didn't have to go to Afghanistan, but he volunteered because he loved the Marines and felt called to serve, his uncle said.

His family, now coping with the news that Juarez, 23 was killed Saturday in Helmand province, believes he died for a worthy cause.

"He died for his country, and for freedom, and that's why he's a hero," said the uncle, Toby Flores.

He said the Marine's parents, Cynthia and George Juarez, don't want circumstances of his death revealed until they've returned with his remains from Dover, Del. Military official would not say whether Juarez was killed in a roadside bomb blast that took the life of British reporter Rupert Hamer and an Afghan soldier.

What is clear, relatives said, is that the native San Antonian they called Mark David was kind to others and determined to make something of his life.

Born in San Antonio on Nov. 14, 1986, Juarez grew up in the Beacon Hill area, near Hildebrand and San Pedro avenues, and attended St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.

He had a large extended family, including a father who had been in the Navy and uncles who'd served in other military branches. He attended local Catholic schools, made good grades, and "studied all the time," his uncle said.

Flores, who had served in the Army, tried to steer Juarez toward the Air Force so he wouldn't be routinely exposed to dangers in the war zone. But Juarez wasn't afraid and was drawn by a sense of unity that permeates Marine Corps culture, his uncle said.

Juarez, responsible for issuing weapons to troops in the field, loved his job and planned to re-enlist. He recently had served nine months in Iraq and could have chosen not to deploy to Afghanistan. He went there in November.

"He was not supposed to go on this tour. He volunteered for it," Flores said.

Juarez is the 10th San Antonian killed in Afghanistan, and the first to die in combat overseas this year. All four San Antonians who died in combat last year also were killed in Afghanistan. Three of them were Marines.

Juarez's grandmother, Elida Flores, has her living room filled with photos of the young Marine. His kindergarten graduation photo shows an innocent-looking boy in a small commencement robe. In the photo from his 2005 graduation from Holy Cross High School, he had a thin mustache, but he was clean cut in his official Marine Corps photo.

Angel Cedillo, principal at Holy Cross, said Juarez was a "model kid" who never caused problems. During the school's morning prayer Monday, school officials announced his death and said a prayer over the public address system.

Juarez is the first known graduate of Holy Cross, which opened in 1957, to be killed in military service since 2001, Cedillo said.

"We prepared a prayer keeping Mark and his family in our thoughts," he said. "He was an incredibly quiet, unassuming young man. Knowing what we know of the Marines and their values of dedication and selflessness, it makes sense that he chose to be a part of that."

His grandmother said Juarez used his auto mechanic skills to help others and was proud of the red Dodge Neon his mother gave him after she got a new car. After joining the Marines, he passed it on to his younger brother, Dominic, 21, who also attended Holy Cross.

"He was a real lovable, nice boy, always smiling," his grandmother said. "There wasn't anything you could ask that he wouldn't do for you."

Juarez had a son who lives in Kentucky and will turn 2 in March.

Funeral arrangements, which include burial at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, are pending.
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