Waxahachie High grad dies in Afghanistan

04/20/2011 6:18 AM

10/09/2011 11:17 AM

Editor's note: The report was originally published in the Star-Telegram on April 16, 2011.

Daniel Ramirez made a long and lonely drive on Sunday from college in San Marcos back home to Waxahachie.

He had lost his best friend, his brother, on Saturday night.

His name was Joel Ramirez, an Army private first class 18 months older than Daniel, a closeness in age matched by a fierce brotherly rivalry and a strong devotion to each other.

"I never beat him in arm wrestling," Daniel Ramirez said. "I'd like to say I was faster, but he was just a little bit faster. We had a big rivalry. We were always competitive, at everything. I'm proud of my brother. I'm upset, but proud."

Pfc. Ramirez, 22, a 2007 graduate of Waxahachie High School and an infantryman barely a month into his first deployment, was killed Saturday night when a roadside bomb was detonated under his vehicle in the Nimroz Province of southwestern Afghanistan, according to the Defense Department.

Also killed were Spc. Charles Wren, 25, of Beeville in South Texas, and Spc. Paul Atim, 27, of Green Bay, Wis.

They were in the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry, part of the 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, N.Y.

News of Pfc. Ramirez's death reached many people in Waxahachie before the official announcement Tuesday. His parents, Chano and Irma, are custodians at Waxahachie High School.

"The impact this family has had on our school, you just can't describe," said Principal David Nix, who described Pfc. Ramirez as "a respectful, 'yes, sir, no, sir, kid.'"

"These kids here now probably didn't know Joel, but they know Chano, and they're telling their parents at home about it," he said. "We've had an amazing outpouring of support and concern from parents who want to help the family in some way."

Pfc. Ramirez was born in California and grew up there until his father got a job in Waxahachie in 2001. After graduating in 2007 and after playing for a soccer team for four years, he worked at several jobs in Dallas but wanted something better after his daughter, Kaylee Marie, was born, his brother said.

"He wanted to do something bigger than day labor, so he enlisted in the Army," his brother said.

He visited his family in March, just before deploying to Afghanistan.

"He loved the brotherhood of the military," his brother said. "The Army gave him respect."

For the first time, he told his brother that he wanted to go to college. "He told me to hang on at college, and he would join me when he got out," Daniel Ramirez said. "Our parents moved here [to the U.S.] so we would get an education."

On Saturday, just before he went on his last patrol, Pfc. Ramirez left a message on his parents' phone, expressing his love, thanking his younger sisters for writing to him and reminding everyone that he would be home on leave this summer.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete Tuesday.

Chris Vaughn, 817-390-7547

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