Saturday, May 19, 2007

Astor Sunsin-Pineda remembered

“If I die, it will be because of God’s will.”

Those were some of the words Astor Sunsin-Pineda used to reassure his stepfather, Julio De Paz, that he was doing what he wanted in Iraq.

For De Paz, those words now hold more meaning than ever. On Wednesday, May 2, 20-year-old Sunsin-Pineda died in Baghdad when an IED (improvised explosive device) hit the Humvee he and his fellow soldiers were riding in.

But in mourning the loss of his son, De Paz is quick to remember the young soldier’s positive attitude about most everything in life.

“He was happy, smiling all the time,” De Paz said. “He told a lot of jokes, made everybody laugh.”

Sunsin-Pineda was born in Honduras and raised in Long Beach. Shortly after graduating from Wilson High School in 2005, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He had been stationed in Iraq about three months with the Special Troops Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division (out of Ft. Riley, Kansas), and recently had been promoted to combat engineering specialist.

Despite his parents’ attempts to keep him from joining the Army, Sunsin-Pineda was determined. De Paz said he later realized what a source of pride it was for his son to be a soldier. (In fact, Sunsin-Pineda recently was featured in an Army recruitment commercial currently airing on Spanish-language television.)

“He loved it,” De Paz said. “When he was a kid, he always played with soldiers. He wanted to be in the military all the time.”

During his time overseas, Sunsin-Pineda regularly kept in touch with his family, calling them almost every day before and after going on missions, De Paz explained.

“We were very, very close,” De Paz said. “He never said anything negative, everything was so great, everything was beautiful.”

Sunsin-Pineda also was dedicated to preaching the word of God while out on the field, De Paz said. He was very involved in his church in Long Beach, Vision Misionera, and continued to take Bible study lessons in Iraq.

He used his faith to be a source of comfort for his fellow soldiers, according to De Paz.

“When everyone was depressed,” De Paz said he heard from soldiers close to his son, “he always got up with a smile, gave everybody a big hug.”

After serving his time in Iraq, Sunsin-Pineda planned on either continuing his service in the Army, or becoming a police officer in Long Beach or Los Angeles, De Paz said.

“He always wanted to serve in the force, no matter what force,” he said. “He wanted to serve the people a lot.”

Sunsin-Pineda dreamed of playing professional soccer as well. He played soccer at Wilson High School for one season, and earlier this year, he got called for the Army National Soccer Team tryouts, De Paz explained.

De Paz and his family also will remember Sunsin-Pineda for an array of other talents and skills. He often helped out with tasks such as welding and tire rotations at De Paz’s local automotive service shop.

Throughout his years at Wilson High Schol, Sunsin-Pineda played a number of musical instruments, including trombone, accordion, bass and drums, De Paz said.

Thinking of what he will miss most about his son, De Paz reminisced on the close bond they shared.

“It’s easy to be a father,” he said, “But to be a friend of our sons is the hard part. He taught me how to be a father and a friend.

“I want to make sure to tell all parents to support their kids and have open communication with them and to try to be positive all the time with their kids, even in hard times, always transfer positive attitudes.”

From the Grunion Gazette

Related Link:
Astor A. Sunsin-Pineda dies of injuries from I.E.D.