Monday, January 22, 2007

Irving Hernandez reported killed in Iraq

Army Sgt. Irving Hernandez was only a few weeks from a long-awaited homecoming when a sniper's bullet in Iraq ended his life.

Hernandez, 28, a Lower East Side kid who attended Murray Bergtraum High School, was shot and killed in the long-violent city of Mosul on Wednesday, the Pentagon said Thursday.

His wife, Susan Hernandez, 29, told Newsday that her husband of eight years and high school sweetheart was involved in disarming a roadside bomb when the sniper struck. He left behind two children: a daughter, Stacey, 8, and a son, Christian, 6.

"He was the greatest person you could ever know," she said in a phone interview from Fort Wainwright, Alaska, where the family lives. "He was the greatest dad anyone could ask for, and he was a better friend than anyone deserved."

Deployed to Iraq in August, Hernandez was scheduled to return home on Aug. 17, she said, just a little more than a month from today. He had previously served in Afghanistan with a unit based at Fort Drum.

Hernandez said she last spoke with her husband on the day he died. "We just talked about regular stuff: my life, our kids, his life," she said. "We didn't need to talk about what it was like. Everyone knows what it's like over there. He said he was tired."

He was one of at least three members of the 1st battalion, 17th infantry regiment, 172 Stryker Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Wainwright to be killed in the Iraq conflict.

Army Staff Sgt. Shan Ashley, 36, of Texas, said Hernandez was a good friend and a father deeply devoted to his children. "His kids were everything," Ashley said. "He would do anything in the world for anybody."

Ashley said he last saw his friend in March. "He would only open up to certain people," he said. "We mainly would sit around, drink some beers and talk about the things we used to do, like four-wheeling and hunting."

Hernandez said the family is planning to hold a memorial service in New York City.