A 23-year-old U.S. Army sergeant from Jerome died in Iraq Thursday when the Humvee he was riding in flipped over, his family said through a spokeswoman Sunday.
Ivan Vargas Alarcon, a 1999 Jerome High School graduate, was standing in the Humvee and was injured in the chest and neck, said Maria Crabtree, a family friend. He died on the way to an Iraqi hospital, she said.
"He's our local hero," Crabtree said. "He was an awesome kid. He was so focused all the time. He was an awesome artist."
The Department of Defense Web site had not announced Alarcon's death by late Sunday night.
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The family was notified by two Army officers about 12:30 p.m. Friday, said Crabtree, who teaches English as a second language and has known the family since Alarcon was 5 years old.
"His father (who works for a dairy) was home," she said. "His mother was called home from her job (at a second-hand store). She knew it was her son when she saw the officers."
Alarcon, who was a gunner, and other soldiers were on a mission Thursday evening when the accident occurred, Crabtree said. Two other men injured in the accident survived, Crabtree said.
His body was being shipped to Washington, D.C., Sunday and will be transported to Boise within the next few days, she said. No services have been set.
His tour of duty would have ended in January, when he planned to return to south-central Idaho's Magic Valley region to open up an auto body shop, Crabtree said.
Alarcon, who was with an Army unit based in Georgia, is survived by two sisters, four brothers and his parents.
"The family really stood out because they had so many kids," Crabtree said. "They are hardworking — a good family."
Crabtree said Alarcon inspired his younger brother, Rene, to join the Marines. Rene Vargas Alarcon is stationed in Yuma, Ariz., and was slated to go to Iraq, but is coming home for services.
"My son's a Marine," Crabtree said, "and I feel for them."
At least 19 Idahoans have died since the United States began its war on terrorism in October 2001. Including Alarcon, at least 15 soldiers from Idaho have died in Iraq since the U.S. invasion began in March 2003.