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Army Sgt. Ralph Mena

Died May 4, 2010 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

27, of Hutchinson, Kan.; assigned to 72nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 7th Signal Brigade, 5th Signal Command, Mannheim, Germany; died May 4 of injuries sustained from a noncombat-related incident in Tikrit, Iraq.

Continued family tradition of military service

The Associated Press

Loved ones say Ralph Mena was a funny guy who always seemed to have a grin plastered across his face and had a laugh that echoes in their memories.

“It didn’t matter what was going on in his life, he always smiled,” friend Harvey Barker said.

The 27-year-old from Hutchinson, Kan., died May 4 in Tikrit, Iraq, of injuries from what the military described as an incident not related to combat. The former Hutchinson High School student was assigned to Mannheim, Germany, and had served in the Army for seven years.

“He was bad and ornery, and the Army kind of changed him to grow up and be what he was,” Mena’s sister Jennifer Hall said.

“Ralphie,” as he was sometimes known, was the son of a Navy veteran.

“He was all about family and all about friends,” Barker said. “And if you were one of Ralph’s friends, essentially you were his family.”

Mena married Amber Harrison on Valentine’s Day 2010 and had two stepdaughters, Lexi and Bridget. He’d planned to come home on leave in August.

Survivors include his brothers, Willie Schmidt and Philip Hernandez, and another sister, Marie Mena.

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