A Caldwell soldier was one of three soldiers supporting Operation Enduring Freedom killed Sunday in an attack in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense announced Monday.
Staff Sgt. Octavio Herrera, 26, Sgt. Jamar A. Hicks, 22, of Little Rock, Ark., and Spc. Keith E. Grace Jr., 26, of Baytown, Texas, died after enemy forces attacked their unit with indirect fire, the DOD said.
The soldiers were assigned to the 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.
Officials said Herrera and Grace died in Paktia Province. Hicks was evacuated to Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost, Afghanistan, and later died.
The Herrera family released the following statement on Monday:
First of all, we want the world to know that Octavio loved and was deeply loved by his family. His family has always been his priority, and it was clear to all of us that he took so much pleasure from being with us. That included play-wrestling with his nephews, nieces, his brothers and sister and even his father. He was the youngest but strongest son, and we thought of him as our big little brother. He loved having fun! Octavios smile lit up any room he was in, and we will never forget that smile.
"He was so generous - Octavio spoiled his younger sister by giving her anything he could give her, and he was planning to take us all to Disneyland when he returned from this, his third deployment to Afghanistan. "But there was so much more to Octavio. He was hard working, he was very bright and he loved a good challenge. While he worked in the fields with his mother and father as he grew up, he wanted much more from life. He took advanced placement courses in high school, and when he entered college he found he had his first years worth of courses already done. He loved a good challenge, and actually built a computer himself when he was in high school. We laugh when we say it and we mean it with great affection - but he was a nerd in the finest tradition of that word. "From the time he was young, Octavio told us he knew he wanted to join the Army. It seemed his calling was for a life of public service, and he told us he wanted to continue his public service after he left the military, perhaps as a police officer. We feel this calling was a noble thing.
"Octavio was seen as a leader and brother to so many who served with him. His friendship, loyalty, and kind spirit will be carried in the hearts of many. "He was a caring husband and best friend to his wife. He greeted each of their days together with one of his famous smiles. His wife was truly blessed to find her soul mate, and he will forever be the love of her life. "Octavio leaves behind his wife Courtney, his father, mother, grandmother and grandfather, two brothers, a sister, 2 nephews and 2 nieces, a sister-in-law, his mother and father-in-law, and a brother-in-law. His extended family is in Oregon, Nevada, Chicago and Mexico.
"He graduated Caldwell High School in 2005. Before he entered the U.S. Army in 2007, Octavio attended college in Phoenix, Arizona and Boise State University. While in Phoenix, he worked for UPS. Octavio also held jobs at Orphan Annies in Caldwell, Lowes in Nampa and at the Crookham Seed Company.