News: 1-23 INF soldier remembered for his leadership and smile
Story by Staff Sgt. David Chapman
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — The 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Family and friends said their final goodbyes to a comrade and confidant as photos of the young sergeant during happier times, scrolled on a screen at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Lewis North Chapel, Aug. 1.
Before his death, Sgt. Juan Navarro, infantryman, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, would share these words with the soldiers he led. “God loves me enough to let me go through the lessons I came here to learn. Even the ones that hurt the most,”
Sgt. Juan P. Navarro died July 7, in the service of his country, from wounds he sustained when he was attacked with an improvised explosive device in the province of Kandahar, Afghanistan. Navarro’s commanders reflected on his skills as a leader and also his ability to always be thinking about his men and his missions.
“Whether it was freezing in Yakima or burning up at the National Training Center, he was always smiling, he was always trying to get the mission done,” said Lt. Col. Wilson Rutherford, battalion commander, 1-23 Inf. in comments sent from Afghanistan. “What an example he set for me and for all of us here. He wasn’t focused on his own hardships. He focused on those around him and what he could do to protect them.”
As many thought back on the life of the young soldier, one specific attribute was always brought to the forefront; his sense of humor and his love for life.
“He was one of the first people I met. He was always very upbeat and always cracking jokes with a smile on his face. As I got to know him and the soldiers of my platoon more and more I realized how everyone was drawn to him and always wanted to be around him,” said Sgt. Lance Palen, team leader, A Company, 1-23 Inf. “He wasn’t just an amazing leader. He was an amazing friend as well, who would be there at the drop of a hat no matter the time or place.”
Navarro had big plans for his future, both in his military career and also his academic and personal life.
“He had spoke to me early about the possibility of attending Ranger School and the fact he aspired to earn a college degree,” said Capt. Andrew Smith, commander, A company, 1-23 Inf. “His vision was always forward looking and he was constantly seeking a way to better himself as an individual and a soldier.”
Sgt. Juan P. Navarro, an Austin, Texas, native, graduated from Lanier High School in 2007 and enlisted in the United States Army in June of 2008.
This was his second deployment with the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment. His first was in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from August 2009 to June 2010. And he had deployed to Afghanistan in March of this year, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
With Navarro being the first in his family to join the military, they knew he would be nothing but a brave soldier when faced with combat.
“He wasn’t afraid,” said his brother-in-law Eleazar Dominguez in an interview with the American-Statesmen. “He was courageous. He wasn’t afraid of gunshots. He wasn’t afraid of anything.”
The infectious sense of humor and laughter that was commonly remembered by Sgt. Navarro’s soldiers also resonated with his family.
“He was the type of person that even if he didn't know you he would give you a big smile and a hug," said his older brother, Miguel Pantoja. "I'm proud of everything he did. I'm proud of him because he did what he wanted to do."
He is survived by his father, Victor Navarro and mother, Christina Pantosa.
Navarro’s was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart posthumously and his awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal (ISAF), Combat Infantryman’s Badge and Drivers Badge.