Oct 7, 2009 3:25 AM
A 29 -year-old Tucson soldier was one of the eight U.S. troops killed in a battle in Afghanistan on Saturday. The Department of Defense will not confirm it, but Justin Gallegos' family says the Army's notified them that he's among the dead.
The Defense Department says it won't release any of the names until all of the soldiers' families have been notified.
Gallegos' family says he died during a day long battle near the Pakistan border when hundreds of insurgents stormed two remote outposts.
Gallegos' mother says she's too upset to talk about her son's death. So her boss and friend Bessie Guadiana-Hoffman spoke for her. She hired Justin after he graduated from Tucson High School and before he joined the Army in 2002.
Guadiana-Hoffman says, "He was strong. He was strong willed. He was a go-getter. He was a self starter."
She says he joined the military because, "He enjoyed structure in his life. He enjoyed the order of it. He enjoyed helping individuals. That's what the military does."
It was Gallegos' third deployment to the Middle East. His family says he did two tours in Iraq before he went to Afghanistan.
It was only after he died that Guadiana-Hoffman says his family learned he'd won two Purple Hearts for being wounded. Now, she says, the Army will award him a third for being killed and a Bronze Star.
Guadiana-Hoffman says, "He was an unsung hero. He was not the type of a man who touted his accolades. That's Justin."
The father of a 5-year-old son, Guadiana-Hoffman says he loved his country. "He would get really upset when people would put down the United States for being at war. He said we don't choose to be at war. We choose to help end the war. Unfortunately the war ended his life."
But, Guadiana-Hoffman says it didn't end his memory. She says, "That's the type of individual Justin is. I won't say was because his sprit is still here. That's how he is."
Gallegos' funeral services are pending. The family wants to thank Evergreen cemetery for offering to pay any costs the military doesn't.