News: City of San Marcos names park for fallen soldier
SAN ANTONIO - Paul Pena played here as a child. He went to school just over the rise. He’d run past this playground as he worked on his West Point physical fitness requirements.
It’s really just a small park tied to the neighborhood Pena grew up in. On May 26, this corner of Texas got a new name: Capt. Paul Pena Park.
Pena gave his life Jan. 19, 2010, killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. His story ended there, but most of it was written in San Marcos, a city where hundreds gave a morning to commemorate their Eagle Scout, San Marcos Academy graduate, and neighbor.
“This is a small number of the people that Paul touched,” said Mayor David Guerrero.
Pena Finally left San Marcos to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He went on to attend Infantry Officer Basic School, Airborne School and Ranger school at Fort Benning, Ga.
He served with the 509th Infantry at Fort Richardson, Alaska, the 508th Parachute Infantry of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C. He deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Family friend Lt. Col. Jason Miseli, of Headquarters, 1st Cavalry Division of Fort Hood, listed the times Pena chose to take on a difficult task and more responsibility.
“Abraham Lincoln said, ‘It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years,’“ Miseli said. He offered Pena’s approach and outlook as an example to others.
Pena was buried Jan. 28, 2010, at Fort Sam Houston cemetery.
Not long after Paul’s death, his mother Cecilia Pena began to get involved in the Army’s programs for Family members of fallen Soldiers. Participation in Army Family Action Program committees and conferences eventually led to her nomination to the Chief of Staff of the Army’s Survivor Advisor board.
Cecilia Pena was recommended for a Survivor Advisor “because of her commitment and contributions to preserving the memories of fallen soldiers and support to their survivors in the community,” said Hal Snyder, chief of the Wounded and Fallen Branch at the U.S. Army Installation Management Command. IMCOM, through its Family programs, coordinates Survivor Outreach Services for the U.S. Army.
The nine-member panel recently had its second meeting at IMCOM headquarters.
“I’m glad the Army seems to have a genuine interest and concern in helping survivors,” she said.
Pena thanked the guests for attending the ceremony in honor of her son. Soldiers from the 508th, 509th, IMCOM and other units attended. The scoutmaster from his troop, a color guard from San Marcos Academy and West Point roommates took part.
Master Sgt. Michael Smith escorted Cecilia Pena to seat. Currently with the 106th Signal Brigade at Joint Base San Antonio, Smith also served with Pena in Operation Enduring Freedom.
As non-commissioned officer in charge of the color guard in Kandahar, Smith carried Pena’s coffin as the remains began their journey home.
Smith found out about the ceremony via Facebook. He wore his airborne boots and beret to the ceremony.
Capt. Andy De Santiago, a classmate at West Point, noted the proximity of the ceremony to Memorial Day.
“It is a fitting time 'to celebrate an awe-inspiring life cut short in combat,'” he said.
“Paul had a love for life that was contagious,” added classmate Christian Fierro. “He loved living, his life and his country.”
“The City of San Marcos is honored to commemorate the sacrifices of such a hero by naming a park in his memory,” Guerrero said. “He gave his life so that we may live in a free world. We must never forget.”
Date Posted:06.12.2012 14:39
Location:SAN ANTONIO, TX, US
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