Thursday, December 27, 2012 , Updated 8:45 a.m., December 28, 2012
A soldier from The Colony died in Afghanistan
Sgt. Enrique Mondragon, 23, died Christmas Eve.
A soldier from The Colony died while serving in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Sgt. Enrique Mondragon, 23, died Christmas Eve in Baraki Barak due to injuries sustained when his unit was attacked by small arms fire while on patrol. According to his memorial page on SanctuaryofMary.blogspot.com, he leaves behind a wife and 2-year-old daughter.
According to a press release issued by the military Wednesday, Mondragon was assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment of the 173rd Special Troops Battalion, based out of Bamberg, Germany.
Spc. Ashley McCormick was stationed in Mondragon's platoon for three years. She met him on deployment in Bamberg, Germany, in 2008, shortly before he learned he was going to be a father.
"He got married to Katie and took a little bit to get the paperwork done to get her over here, but he was able to be home for the birth and shortly after Katie and their daughter, Beverly, moved to Germany," McCormick said.
The platoon, which McCormick said was the only airborne military police platoon in Europe, was deployed to southeast Afghanistan. The group was split with half deployed to Cop Chark and the other half deployed to Baraki Barak, something McCormick called difficult.
"I can't begin to explain how close our platoon is," she said. "Not only are you in a foreign country, but all you have is each other and when you are training with everyday, you see the people you work with more than you see your actual family. We love each other. We are with each other every day and as soon as we got off work we'd be hanging out. We couldn't get enough of each other. We are a huge family."
After accomplishing its mission, the platoon was reunited in Baraki Barak. Some troops were ordered back to the states, but Mondragon extended his stay for a second deployment, McCormick said.
"In the area of operation in Baraki Barak, sometimes we have to convoy out to a certain area and conduct a mission," she said. "Their mission was to set up a traffic control point and talk to locals in the area using a HIDE Machine -- you can get their fingerprints and you can take a picture of their eye. If anything did happen -- enemy fire or casualties -- then we would have that on record. That's what he was doing that day."
As part of the convoy, the trucks' gunners and drivers stayed behind while other personnel dismounted the vehicles. Mondragon was one of the dismounts on the mission, McCormick said.
"He was actually in the middle of getting information from a local and a three-round burst went off and one round of the three hit him," she said. "That was it. We are like a family out there. We have gone through deployments before but we have never lost anyone in our company."
McCormick said the platoon is still trying to cope with the news, and, with heavy sorrow, their thoughts and prayers go out to Mondragon's wife Katie and their daughter Beverly.
"The whole platoon is heartbroken," she said. "He was a small guy but made a huge impact in the platoon. I think what hurts us the most is [concern for] his wife and daughter. Katie is such an amazing person, an amazing mom, the perfect wife, and their daughter is just such a beautiful girl. He was with them as often as he could be. It's heartbreaking to imagine what she is going through right now. For us in the military, we go through this every day and we know what to expect, but for her ... I wish there was more we could do for her."
The Colony Mayor Joe McCourry, who has two children serving in the military and is a veteran himself, said Mondragon's death is a tragedy.
"I've been talking with the American Legion, and they are trying to get together with his family and help in any way possible," he said. "I understand he's been flown back to the states and will be properly taken care of. We want to be there both as a city and as a veteran in support of this family during these hard times."
McCourry said the timing of Mondragon's death was unthinkable.
"It's just something that no parent ever wants to face," McCourry said. "On one hand, you are very proud of their service to the country, but on the other hand, it would just be terrifying [and] devastating."
Funeral services are pending.
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