Military Times
Honor The Fallen
Honoring those who fought and died in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn
Search Our Database


Bookmark and Share

Army Spc. Isela Rubalcava

Died May 8, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

25, of El Paso, Texas; assigned to the 296th Combat Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), Fort Lewis, Wash.; killed May 8 when a mortar round hit nearby in Mosul, Iraq.

Only daughter killed in Iraq

By Laura Cruz

El Paso Times

Two soldiers drove up to Maria Isela Rubalcava’s Upper Valley home the day before Mother’s Day to deliver the worst news possible.

Her only daughter, Sgt. Isela Rubalcava, 25, had been killed that day in Mosul, Iraq.

The El Paso native and 1996 Canutillo High School graduate died when a mortar round struck near her on May 8, the Defense Department announced.

She is believed to be the first El Paso woman ever killed in combat.

Her grief-stricken parents, Ramon and Maria Isela Rubalcava, spoke haltingly through their tears. Isela also is survived by two younger brothers.

“They took a piece of my heart,” Ramon Rubalcava said. “I only hope this war ends soon because I don’t wish this pain on anyone else.”

“I can’t talk,” Maria Isela Rubalcava said in Spanish between sobs. “I can’t. I’m only very sad because they took my daughter. It’s very, very difficult, very difficult.”

Sgt. Rubalcava’s cousin, Hector Barragan, spoke at a family news conference in their Upper Valley home.

“This is a tragedy for us because she was just a girl,” he said. “She was going to be 26. She will always hold a place in our hearts.”

Sgt. Rubalcava joined the Army in 2000 and was a supply technician with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division — the Army’s Stryker Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Lewis, Wash.

Her cousin said he was close to Isela and was in constant e-mail contact with her. He received the last e-mail from her the day before her death.

“She was excited and happy because she was going to eventually come home and she was going to be stationed in Fort Bliss,” Barragan said. “She’s always been a happy person, always smiling. When she came back from boot camp, she was cheerful and told us about how great it was.”

Barragan said Isela, who deployed to Iraq in November and was expected to return in March 2005, attended the University of Texas at El Paso and Sul Ross State University, but joined the Army about four years ago because “she wanted to serve her country.” “When my uncle and aunt first learned that Isela was going to Iraq, they were sad. But they supported her because she wanted to go,” he said. “We understand that this is part of the service, but it’s hard and we’re trying to manage.”

Margarita Rubalcava — Isela’s grandmother and Ramon Rubalcava’s mother — said the extended family is trying to help the Rubalcavas find some form of comfort.

“This is a very heavy pain,” she said. “We were waiting for her to come home. Now we’re praying for peace so that no one else will feel this pain.”

Margarita Rubalcava said Isela was a “good girl” with a lot of happiness and energy.

“She achieved everything she set her heart on,” she said. “I can only thank God that he gave her at least this much time with us.”

Neighbors and friends of the Rubalcava family also tried to show their support by placing flags throughout Sixta Drive in the Upper Valley.

“We’ve put up the flags in Isela’s honor,” said Monica Orozco, a friend and neighbor. “She was a beautiful person, funny, free spirited. She was the life of the party.”

Orozco said she and her family were outside their home talking Saturday when she saw a military van drive up and two soldiers step out.

“My brother is in the Army, so I know that when you see a military vehicle pull up to your house, it’s not good,” she said. “I don’t think there are any words to describe the amount of pain her mother felt the moment she was told.”

Thomas Sandoval, a neighbor and Korean War veteran, said he was heartbroken to learn of Isela’s death because he had known her since she was a child.

“It made me feel very sad,” Sandoval said. “We should have pulled out every American soldier a long time ago. We shouldn’t have gone to Iraq in the first place.”

View By Year & Month

2002   2001

Military Times
© 2018 Sightline Media Group
Not A U.S. Government Publication