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Army Spc. Eric U. Ramirez

Died February 12, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

31, of San Diego, Calif.; assigned to the 670th Military Police Company, Army National Guard, National City, Calif.; killed Feb. 12 when he was attacked by small-arms fire, a rocket-propelled grenade and an improvised explosive device in Abu Ghraib, Iraq.

Hundreds mourn central Florida soldier killed in Iraq

Associated Press

MASCOTTE, Fla. — Mourners remembered Spec. Eric Ulysses Ramirez as one of his unit’s most valuable soldiers in Iraq and as a Star Wars fan who lived to be a “Jedi in his time.”

Ramirez, 31, was killed while on patrol near a prison about 30 miles west of Baghdad before dawn Feb. 12 when his California National Guard unit was attacked by small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and homemade explosive devices, the U.S. Army said.

“We see the price of freedom in front of us,” Lake County School Board member Jimmy Conner said Saturday at La Primera Iglesia Bautista de Mascotte, a bilingual Baptist church where Ramirez’s father serves as pastor.

About 350 people crowded inside the church and under at tent outside for the funeral of Ramirez, who was raised in the Orlando area and graduated from Mount Dora High School in 1991.

Anthony Puente, who was the best man at Ramirez’s wedding, remembered throwing Ramirez a Star Wars themed party for his 27th birthday because his friend loved the movie.

Brig. Gen. James Combs, deputy adjutant general for the California National Guard, said Ramirez had shown the qualities of the movie heroes.

“He strapped on his laser sword for America,” Combs said. “He was, without question, a Jedi in his time.”

Master Sgt. Steve Studebaker, who served with Ramirez in Iraq, said the soldier was working as a gunner during the ambush on a routine patrol: “Basically, he was hunting for the bad guys.”

Studebaker described Ramirez as one of the unit’s most valuable soldiers.

“He always had that smile,” Studebaker said. “He always had that chuckle, just when you needed it the most.”

Ramirez’s widow, Tracy Benson-Ramirez, accepted three Gold Stars — one for herself and one each for her daughter, Isis, who turns 2 next week, and son, Chase, who was born in December.

Ramirez was buried at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.

San Diego National Guardsman killed in Iraq

SAN DIEGO — Army National Guardsman Eric Ramirez was six weeks away from being sent home to be with his wife and their ailing newborn when he was killed while on patrol south of Baghdad.

Ramirez, 31, was killed instantly on Feb. 12 when explosives blew through the vehicle he was driving near the Abu Ghraib prison, according to his wife, Tracy Anne Benson-Ramirez.

The San Diego man, who served court papers for the Sheriff’s Department, had petitioned the Army to allow him to return home early. The couple’s two young children have medical problems and Benson-Ramirez’s father recently died.

“My husband shouldn’t be dead,” Benson-Ramirez told The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Ramirez joined the National Guard in 2000 to prepare for a career in law enforcement. His stint was about to end in 2001 when the terror attacks of Sept. 11 prompted the Guard to extend his commitment, his family said.

After he was activated to duty last year, Ramirez sent his family to live near relatives in Wisconsin. He later was sent to Iraq with the 670th Military Police Company.

He returned briefly in December to witness the birth of his second child, Chase Eric Charles Ramirez.

Benson-Ramirez said she didn’t want him to return to Iraq. Their first child had barely survived a premature birth and their newborn also has been in delicate health.

“All he wanted to do is take care of me and our two children,” she said Wednesday.

When he said goodbye to his wife and children just after Christmas, he tried to assure Benson-Ramirez that he would be safe.

“He told me that the Lord will be with him and that (God) wouldn’t punish him or me,” she said.

— Associated Press

Soldier who grew up in central Florida killed in Iraq

ORLANDO, Fla. — A California National Guard soldier who was raised in central Florida was killed in Iraq, officials and family members said.

Spc. Eric Ulysses Ramirez, 31, was on patrol near Abu Ghraib rison about 30 miles west of Baghdad before dawn Thursday when his unit was attacked by small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and homemade explosive devices, the U.S. Army said.

Ramirez died of multiple wounds he received during the ambush, the Army said.

Ramirez was attached to the 670th Military Police Company from Southern California, where he had been living since finishing his active-duty service in the Navy in the mid-1990s. He was set to return home in six weeks.

He was working as a deputy sheriff in San Diego County when he was recalled in early 2003, his father, Felix Ramirez, told the Orlando Sentinel for a Sunday story.

Ramirez was born in Greensboro, N.C., in November 1972. His parents moved to the Orlando area the next year.

He attended Roseborough and Triangle elementary schools, Mount Dora Middle School and graduated from Mount Dora High School in 1991.

Eric Ramirez was able to leave Iraq in December to be with his wife, Tracy, their daughter and newborn son in Manitowish Waters, Wis., where they had been married and where she went to live when he was sent overseas.

Master Sgt. Ben Pigsley from MacDill Air Force Base drove to Mascotte near Orlando on Friday to inform Felix and Maria Ramirez of their son’s death.

The family said they fully supported their son’s decision to serve in the military.

“He loved his country,” said Felix Ramirez, a native of Mexico. “Our whole family is very patriotic. We all love this country.”

— Associated Press

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