Based: Ft. Hood, Texas
1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
Supporting: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Died: April 3, 2007
Hometown: Baldwin Park
High School: Sierra Vista High (Baldwin Park)
Burial: Rose Hills Memorial Park, Whittier
From the LA Times:
When Javier Figueroa's cellphone rang early one morning this month, he was delighted to hear the voice of his son, Gabriel, calling to say hello from Baghdad, where he was serving in the Army.
Because Gabriel had borrowed the phone from a friend, the father and son spoke for only a few minutes. Gabriel told his dad that he was preparing to go out on patrol. "Be very careful, son," his father said. "Don't forget to say your prayers."
Hours later, Gabriel J. Figueroa, 20, was shot and killed.
Figueroa, one of five children, grew up in Baldwin Park and attended Sierra Vista High School. While in high school, he was a Police Explorer with the Baldwin Park Police Department and volunteered at a local hospital, visiting the sick and helping nurses with their duties.
His mother, Elsa, said he was a voracious reader, favoring Stephen King novels, and enjoyed fishing. He also was into music -- including punk rock, rap and country, the latter being a recently acquired taste stimulated by his Army buddies.
After high school, Figueroa worked briefly for United Parcel Service before deciding to enlist in the Army. His parents urged him to reconsider, telling him that duty in Iraq was too dangerous. But he was resolute, and his parents relented.
"Once he joined, he had our full support," his father said.
His parents attended his graduation from basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo., and medic school at Ft. Sam Houston in Texas.
His mother recently asked her son by e-mail whether he thought he made the right choice in joining the Army. The question came after he had spent several months in Iraq, where he complained of being sleep-deprived and relying on energy drinks to keep going.
"Yes," he replied. "It's the best thing I've ever done."
Although his parents are openly critical of the war in general -- and President Bush in particular -- they continue to hold the Army in high regard.
"The Army made a man out of my son," Javier Figueroa said. "They were good to him, and they've been good to us."
He said a three-star general attended his son's funeral and posthumously awarded him a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq.
"U were always there for everyone ... and when u needed the help no one was there," one longtime friend wrote. "I think and think and the only conclusion I can come up with is that heaven needed a hero
The body of Gabriel J. Figueroa is taken off a plane
Find more about Army Private 1st Class Gabriel J. Figueroa