16 Jun 2006:
No. 559-06 IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jun 16, 2006
DoD Announces Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Sgt. Roger P. Pena Jr., 29, of San Antonio died in Musa Qulah,
Afghanistan, on June 14, when his convoy came under enemy small arms fire during combat operations. Pena was assigned to the 10th Sustainment Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.
Harlandale alum killed in Afghanistan
Web Posted: 06/16/2006 12:00 AM CDT
Express-News Staff Writer
There's just one thing people should know about Army Sgt. Roger P. Peña Jr., a champion chess player and Harlandale High School alumnus, his grieving father said Thursday.
"He was a hero. That's how I want him to be remembered," Roger Peña Sr. said. "It's a great loss. Nobody understands the pain unless they've been there."
Peña, 29, a combat medic with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y., was killed Tuesday in Afghanistan.
Details of what happened have not been released by the Defense Department, but his father said he was told Peña was caught in an ambush.
Another soldier was wounded.
Peña only had recently been promoted to sergeant and was considering staying in the military, his father said.
"I was distraught when I learned he was going to Afghanistan, but it was his wish," his father said. "To me, going into the Army was a bad decision but I supported him."
The older of two sons, the sergeant never told his family members about his work out of fear they would worry more than they already did.
A good student who made excellent grades, he was in the youth club at St. Leo's Catholic Church and he enjoyed competing in chess against kids from the North Side.
Nine years old when his father began teaching him chess, Peña took to it quickly. He joined the chess club when he got to Harlandale Middle School and began taking part in more serious competitions.
In 1991, Peña took first place overall among eighth-graders at the Texas Junior State Championship in Austin.
The team placed second in the state meet.
"Roger was one of the top players at that time in the state," said Felix Fierros Jr., a chess coach and computer literacy teacher at the middle school at the time.
Fierros, who will be teaching at Inez Foster Elementary School in the fall, said the football coaches at Harlandale High School, where Peña played on the football and soccer teams, were overjoyed at his chess-playing ability.
"Because of chess, coaches knew he could think ahead and calculate what strategies would be needed in football," Fierros said. "Besides that, he was one of those kids who's a born leader. He had the looks, the smarts, the charisma and the kids liked him."
Peña almost attended Texas A&M University, but his father talked him into attending the University of Texas at Austin because it was closer to home.
His goal was to graduate and teach history.
At UT, he met a pretty student from Mission, Marisol Gomez. He took a semester off after they got married, thinking he would return to get his degree. Instead, until he joined the Army, Peña worked with the H.E. Butt Grocery Co., first at the store on Fredericksburg Road, then at the one on Goliad Road.
The sergeant made his last visit home in January to see Marisol, their two sons, Ivan, 5, and Gabriel, 2, and his parents.
"When he arrived, he told his mother he needed a home-cooked meal," his father said. "He liked everything, but Mexican food was his favorite."
Now, Peña's little boys have no idea what has happened to their father.
"They know he's away, but they don't know that he's never coming back," their grandfather said.
08 Mar 2006
I am a soldier from Fort Drum, NY. Right now some of us are in Afghanistan working in a clinic treating military personnel, DOD civilians, and locals. We can use a lot of entertainment like magazines, music, movies, books, because our access is limited. Stuff like sweets, popcorn, candy and coffee are great. Also, for the females that work for me I wouldn't know what to request other than female stuff. Thank you.