Thursday, February 15, 2007

Gilbert Minjares killed in helicopter crash

EL PASO — An El Paso Navy corpsman who had been in Iraq seven days was killed Wednesday when the Marine CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter he was riding in crashed in Al Anbar Province.

Navy Hospital Corpsman First Class Gilbert Minjares Jr., 31, a 1994 Hanks High School graduate, died with six others in the helicopter crash. The cause of the incident is still under investigation.

Before leaving for Iraq, Minjares told his brother that if anything happened to him, his children should know he served so they could grow up without fear in a free country.

"He gave me all his clothes and stuff, like he knew what was going to happen," Jose Minjares, Gilbert's brother, said Thursday evening. "He told me, 'If anything happens, I want you to let my kids know I did it for them.'"

Minjares is survived by his wife, a 2-year-old son and a 4-week-old baby who are living in North Carolina, said Eddie Pedregon, the seaman's cousin. Gilbert Minjares also worked as a recruiter in El Paso, Jose Minjares said.

"He always wanted to give to others before he gave to himself," Pedregon said. "His dream was to save Marines."
As a corpsman, the Marines' equivalent of an Army medic, that was his job.

At Hanks, Minjares was a starter on the football team who played both fullback and quarterback. And even as a young man, his brother looked out for friends and relatives, tending to minor injuries, Jose Minjares said.

"He (didn't want) to see anybody suffer," Jose Minjares said. "He just wanted the best for all of us."

Gilbert Minjares joined the Navy about a month after graduating from high school, his brother said. The seaman was happy-go-lucky, loved his family and his home and had no doubts about his service or heading to Iraq to do his duty, his brother added.

"He said he'd rather go fight over there than have to fight (terrorism) over here," the brother said. "He was a brave, brave man."

When Jose Minjares went to see his brother off at the airport three weeks ago, he spoke words of support.

"I don't want you to worry about your kids," Jose Minjares told his older brother. "I'll take them under my wing."

From the Sun