Monday, August 06, 2007

Alfred H. Jairala dies 'of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'

Pfc. Alfred Henry Jairala was coming home from Iraq any day now. So when his wife called the house late Tuesday night, his sister in Hialeah, Jessica, thought he'd made it early.

"I couldn't even understand what she was saying. I thought she was crying out of happiness."

But Jairala, 29 -- decorated soldier, brother, husband and father of two baby girls -- was dead in Baghdad. He was killed Tuesday after an explosive device detonated near the vehicle he and two other soldiers were riding in, the U.S. Defense Department said.

Jairala had been a security guard in Miami Beach before he joined the Army, his sister said. He was trained to drive a Stryker armored vehicle.

Worried family asked him to reconsider when he enlisted three years ago, she said, but he was determined. "It was something he wanted to do," Jessica said.

"There was no stopping him when he wanted something."

After moving from Elmont, N.Y., in 1999, Jairala came to Hialeah, where he lived for three years. Army officials reported that Jairala was a decorated soldier who garnered several ribbons and medals, including an Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon and Combat Infantryman Badge.

Jairala enlisted in the Army in September 2004. In June 2006, he was deployed to Iraq from Fort Lewis, Wash.

He would have been back in the United States in late spring, his sister said, but then his tour of duty was extended.

He was killed along with two soldiers from his unit: Spc. Zachariah J. Gonzalez, 23, of Indiana, and Pfc. Charles T. Heinlein Jr., 23, of Hemlock, Mich.

He leaves his wife, Margarita, and two daughters, Cameron and Jasmine.

When they are old enough, Jessica will talk to her nieces about their father, she said.

"I'll tell them they should be proud of their father . . . He defended his country and he loved his country."

From the Miami Herald