Slain soldier laid to rest

first_imgUp to 500 people crammed into the park’s SkyRose Chapel to bid their final farewells to the young Baldwin Park resident, who was killed by enemy small-arms fire April 3 in Baghdad, Iraq. Friends described Figueroa as a quiet boy with a shy smile that masked a bright and at times mischievous spirit. Campos described how, during an explorer conference in Arizona, Figueroa was caught ransacking the bedroom of two fellow cadets as a joke. “They covered him with shaving cream as payback,” Campos remembered. “It was also his idea on that trip to paint his brother Xavier’s nails and put makeup on his face while he was asleep.” But beneath the jokes and the quiet demeanor lay a steadfast dedication to country and family that led Figueroa to enlist in the Army right after graduating from Sierra Vista High School in 2005, said his older brother, Xavier Figueroa. “He said he went so we \ wouldn’t have to,” Xavier said. • Photo Gallery: Army medic Gabriel Figueroa’s funeral WHITTIER – As a Baldwin Park police explorer, Gabriel Figueroa could always be counted on to show up for patrol detail, no matter how short the notice. “He was quite a guy, very dedicated,” said his former explorer adviser, Officer Rudy Campos, adding that Gabriel would honor his police duties even if it meant forgoing family gatherings. Figueroa’s police and explorer colleagues paid homage to that dedication Saturday, showing up in force as the 20-year-old Army medic was laid to rest at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier. At the entrance to the chapel, mourners gathered and sobbed at a collage of pictures showing a grinning Gabriel as an infant, taking a mouthful of baby food; as a child wearing his soccer uniform; and as a young man, his date pinning a boutonniere on his lapel for a high school dance. The family tried hard to talk Gabriel out of joining the Army, said his father, Javier. “I offered him $3,000 and a brand new car to stay,” said Javier Figueroa following a graveside military service that included a seven-gun salute and the playing of taps. A procession by the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group also accompanied Figueroa to his final resting place. “We even told him that \ Bush would be his boss if he joined,” continued the senior Figueroa, adding that Gabriel had plans to become a registered nurse when he left the service. “He wasn’t too happy about that, but he still did it.” Both Javier Figueroa and his wife, Elsa, expressed dismay at what they said was the lack of planning by politicians in initiating the Iraq war. Elsa Figueroa said she supported calls by Democrats like state Senate Leader Don Perata and others to begin troop withdrawals. “It should happen now,” she said, “even if it is too late for my son.” [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2306160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img