PATROL BASE FAHEEM, Helmand province, Afghanistan - Norberto Mendez-Hernandez, known to most as Mendez, decided to join the Marine Corps after the birth of his first born child to set an example for his children and his younger brother.
Lance Cpl. Mendez quickly became the Marine that others tried to emulate while serving as a rifleman with 3rd Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.
Marines and sailors from across 1/5 remembered his exemplar and commitment during a memorial service at Patrol Base Faheem, Sangin, Afghanistan, July 18.
Mendez was killed in action July 10 while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in the district of Sangin.
Armed with a metal detector and M4 rifle Mendez regularly exposed himself to enemy fire to protect those behind him while he searched for improvised explosive devices.
“When we first inserted into Sangin he was made a sweeper for the squad. Ready to take the squad anywhere, he wasn’t scared one bit,” said Lance Cpl. Armando R. Ribeiro, a team leader for 3rd Plt. “His goal started out to find 20 improvised explosive devices. As time went by he changed his goal to find no IEDs.”
Mendez was the newest member of his squad prior to deploying although he never let that slow him down. Mendez was always on the move and volunteered for everything regardless of the task’s lack of appeal.
“He was the sort of Marine every Marine wants to be. He volunteered so much that I would volunteer for things I didn’t want to do just so he wouldn’t do it,” said Lance Cpl. Jalonnie P. Rhim, an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon machine gunner. “I tried to emulate him and his attitudes on things. He was always moving, always volunteering and rarely complaining.”
Mendez was a reliable Marine and friend. He was the guy that would drop everything to help his fellow Marines and brothers no matter what time they called, said Riberio. He also was the type of friend who would listen to others when they needed a friend.
“For such a small guy, he had a lot of heart,” said Rhim. “His energy and fearlessness was contagious.”
Lance Cpl. Daniel J. Odom, an assistant patrol leader for 3rd Plt., talked about how family oriented Mendez was and what type of husband and father Mendez was.
“He was very outgoing and family oriented. That is one phrase that best describes him,” said Odom. “He had his own family outside of the Marine Corps a loving wife, a small son and a newborn daughter.”
Anyone who spent time with 3rd Platoon saw the pictures of his children, Anthony and Audrey, that he carried with him wherever he went and the videos from home that he showed off as a proud father with the excitement of a child.
“He shared pictures and videos with all of us,” said Odom. “He was proud of his little family. Even though he was a lot younger than me I looked up to him even more for putting himself in harm’s way to protect the ones he loved, at home and here every day,” said Odom.