Sunday, June 10, 2007

Justin A. Verdeja dies 'of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked by insurgents using small arms fire'

Army Pfc. Justin Verdeja was tired of his mother and younger brothers living in rental homes throughout East Los Angeles.

He vowed he was going to help his family capture the American dream by purchasing a new home for his mother, Gina Gonzalez. To do that, Verdeja, who had been attending Cerritos Community College, enlisted in the Army in 2006, hoping to earn study money and enough to make a down payment on a house.

Verdeja, who was based at Fort Carson, was also proud to serve his country.

"He wanted to help his little brothers, and he loved his mother dearly. He was a mama's boy," said Jonathan Guerra, 17, one of Verdeja's brothers. "He always wanted something better for us. We were always renting."

Verdeja, 20, was killed Tuesday in Baghdad, Iraq, after insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire, the Department of Defense said Friday.

The second-oldest of six brothers, Verdeja was born and raised in East Los Angeles and attended Garfield High School, where he played wide receiver on the football team, his brother said. He graduated from high school in 2005.

"He was just a great man overall," his brother said.

From the Rocky Mountain News