Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Joe Polo dies of injuries from I.E.D.

Sgt. Joe Polo knew at age 10 that he was going to be a soldier. As a young teen, he joined the Junior ROTC and at 16 he was calling Army recruiters asking what he needed to do to enlist.

In the midst of a second tour of duty in Iraq, he was ready to return to his native South Florida in October, become a recruiter, settle down with his wife and have seven children.

Those dreams died with him on Thursday in Baghdad, when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device and small arms fire, the Department of Defense said in a release.

"The most ... that he ever wanted was to be a father," his mother, Jackie Guerra, of Miami Gardens, said Tuesday. "That's the only thing that he never got that he couldn't buy and he couldn't work for."

Polo, 24, was born in North Miami Beach and raised by Guerra, a single mother, in Carol City. In 2003, he joined the Army, becoming part of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. He was based in Fort Carson, Colo.

"The Army was what he wanted and what he lived for and that was him," Guerra said. "For him, going over there, he was G.I. Joe. He never thought anything was going to happen to him."

Polo was deployed to Iraq in August 2004 for a year and returned in October. Guerra said she did not share her son's passion for the Army, but supported him.

"I hated it," she said. "I didn't want him to be in the Army or go to Iraq, but in spite of everything, I always was 100 percent in back of him."

During a visit home about a week before his death, Guerra said family members asked him to not re-enlist, but he was not swayed.

"He used to tell me he wanted to rank and be very high in the military," she said. "He loved everything about the Army."

During his military service, Polo was decorated with the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Defense Service Medal, and the Iraqi Campaign Medal, among other honors.

In his family, he was known as "a big-hearted clown" who loved life, Guerra said.

He also loved his family. To sisters Bianka Rodriguez, 16, and Joycette Rodriguez, 17, Polo was a doting big brother.

"The father, you could say," Guerra said. "He thought he was the father ... he always protected them."

Polo's grandmother, Monica Guerra, said Tuesday she was too devastated to discuss her grandson at length.

"He was a star," she said. "For me, he was the ultimate, a very special person. He was a very good person, very noble, very loving."

Two days before leaving for Iraq last year, Polo married his childhood sweetheart, Haidi, whom he had known since he was 14 and she was 12.

Polo often told his mother he was fighting in Iraq to make the world safe for the children and grandchildren he hoped to have, Jackie Guerra said.

She said Haidi Polo was too upset to talk about her husband with a reporter.

From the Sentinel