Moments before his death, Sgt. Juan Navarro looked at his commander and said, “I got this; I got my guys.”
“He was one of the pillars that held his platoon together,” wrote Navarro’s company commander, Capt. Andrew Smith. “He was constantly seeking ways to better himself as an individual and as a soldier.”
Navarro, 23, of Austin, Texas, was killed July 7 by an enemy bomb while serving with Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province.
Lewis-McChord soldiers gathered Wednesday at the North Chapel on base to honor Navarro, one of 21 local soldiers to die in Afghanistan this year. This was Navarro’s second tour overseas; he served in Iraq in 2009-10.
Lt. Col. Wilson Rutherford, Navarro’s task force commander, said two things stood out about Navarro: He was always smiling and he was always trying to complete the mission. It was these qualities, combined with his courage and strength, that made Navarro the epitome of an Apache soldier, Rutherford wrote.
Smith said Navarro was both an outstanding soldier and a quality human being.
“Courage cannot be earned, nor can it be acquired,” Smith wrote. “Courage is a gift, and Sgt. Navarro had this gift.”
While Navarro’s commanders remember his skills on the battlefield, his peers will remember his friendship.
Pvt. 1st Class Kevin Clark recalled Navarro’s selfless attitude and willingness to help others. He told the story of when their platoon was assigned the night guard shift. Long after Navarro’s shift ended, he stayed with the other soldiers, saying he wasn’t going to sleep until all his men could sleep along with him.
“No matter what, Juan always made the best of a situation with that goofy laugh we all grew to love,” Clark said. “In every situation that I needed, he was always there. Before long, he was a brother.”
Sgt. Lance Palen said that if Navarro’s friends needed something, he would do it for them at the drop of a hat.
“Knowing him made us better people,” he said.
Navarro is survived by his parents, Victor Navarro and Christina Pantosa.