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Army Capt. Ernesto M. Blanco

Died December 28, 2003 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

28, of San Antonio; assigned to 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, based in Fort Bragg, N.C.; killed while conducting a support mission Dec. 28 when an improvised explosive device hit his vehicle in Qaryat Ash Shababi, Iraq.

Ernesto M. Blanco first picked up a guitar when he was 8 months old and still loved to play, so his family wasn’t surprised when a friend saw television footage of him strumming in Iraq on Christmas Day.

“When he would play, everyone would just stop,” sister Carmen Blanco-Pendergraff said. “I’m glad to know he got to play in his last days.”

Blanco, 28, of San Antonio, was killed Dec. 28 when an explosive struck his vehicle in Qaryat Ash Shababi, Iraq.

Blanco, who was based at Fort Bragg, N.C., won a Bronze Star and his Combat Infantryman Badge while previously deployed to Afghanistan.

“You could not ask for a better leader,” said Sgt. 1st Class Naamon J. Grimmett, who served with Blanco in Iraq. His sister said he had a strong faith in God and did mission work in Mexico. “He would walk into a room and light it up. He was the glue that held everyone together,” she said. He was engaged to Michelle Sorrell and had planned a June wedding.

— Associated Press

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