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Army Capt. Paul W. Pena

Died January 19, 2010 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

27, of San Marcos, Texas; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died Jan. 19 in Arghandab River Valley, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

Teachers remember quiet, hard-working student

The Associated Press

Paul W. Pena was a hard worker but wasn’t one to sing his own praises. As a skinny teenager in the Junior ROTC program at San Marcos Baptist Academy in San Marcos, Texas, he worked quietly behind the scenes, ensuring that the unit’s annual inspection and other events went smoothly.

He rose to the rank of cadet major and graduated from the academy fifth in his class in 2000, said school spokeswoman Shelley Henry. Then he attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 2004.

Henry said Pena visited the school after serving in Iraq and didn’t seem apprehensive about returning to combat.

“He was just a leader, and I don’t think he was the kind to go in afraid,” she said. “He was a brave soldier.”

Pena, 27, died Jan. 19 in the Arghandab River Valley of Afghanistan of wounds from an explosive. He was assigned to Fort Bragg, N.C.

A teacher at the San Marcos academy, Max Smith, recalled Pena as a diligent, well-behaved boy. “He always came back here and let you know he was OK and that he appreciated all you’d done for him,” said Smith, a retired Army colonel.

Pena’s survivors include his mother, Cecilia.

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