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Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Gilbert Minjares Jr.

Died February 7, 2007 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

31, of El Paso, Texas; assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Cherry Point, N.C.; died Feb. 7 in a helicopter crash in Anbar province, Iraq. Also killed were Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class (Petty Officer 3rd Class) Manuel A. Ruiz, Marine Capt. Jennifer J. Harris, Marine 1st Lt. Jared M. Landaker, Marine Sgt. Travis D. Pfister, Marine Cpl. Thomas E. Saba and Marine Sgt. James R. Tijerina.

El Paso sailor killed after just 7 days in Iraq

The Associated Press

EL PASO, Texas — Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Gilbert Minjares Jr. told his brother that if he died in Iraq, he wanted his two children to know he served so they could grow up free and without fear.

Minjares, 31, and six others died Feb. 7 — just seven days after he reached Iraq — in a helicopter crash in Anbar province, the Department of Defense said Feb. 9. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

“He gave me all his clothes and stuff, like he knew what was going to happen,” said Jose Minjares, Gilbert’s brother. “He told me, ‘If anything happens, I want you to let my kids know I did it for them.’ ”

Minjares is survived by his wife, a 2-year-old son and a 4-week-old baby living in North Carolina, said Eddie Pedregon, the seaman’s cousin. Gilbert Minjares also worked as a recruiter in El Paso, Jose Minjares said.

“He always wanted to give to others before he gave to himself,” Pedregon said. “His dream was to save Marines.”

A corpsman is the Marines’ equivalent of an Army medic.

Minjares was assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, in Cherry Point, N.C.

Minjares played fullback and quarterback at Hanks High School in El Paso. He joined the Navy about a month after graduating in 1994, his brother said.

The seaman was happy-go-lucky, loved his family and his home and had no doubts about his service or heading to Iraq, his brother said.

“He said he’d rather go fight over there than have to fight [terrorism] over here,” the brother said. “He was a brave, brave man.”

U.S. military says helicopter was shot down last week

By Kim Gamel

The Associated Press

BAGHDAD — A Sea Knight helicopter that crashed last week northwest of Baghdad was shot down, the U.S. military said Wednesday, reversing earlier statements that it appeared to have been due to mechanical failure.

The Marine CH-46 troop transport went down northwest of Baghdad on Feb. 7, killing all seven people on board, including two Texans. An al-Qaida-linked Sunni group claimed responsibility and aired a video.

Among those killed were Marine Sgt. James R. Tijerina, 26, of Beasley, and Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Gilbert Minjares Jr., 31, of El Paso.

Military officials initially said they believed the crash was due to mechanical failure, but the military announced Wednesday that an investigation showed the crash was “the result of anti-aircraft munitions.”

“Initial evidence indicated that the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter went down as a result of mechanical failure. After further investigation using all available means, the cause of the incident has been confirmed to be hostile fire,” said Maj. Jeff Pool, a spokesman for the Multi National Force — West.

The statement said the pilots of an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter escorting the Sea Knight did not witness the actual attack, but they saw the fire, descent and subsequent crash. The initial signs resembled fires that have occurred aboard CH-46s experiencing mechanical difficulties in the past, it added.

The military also said the crash site had been cleared with explosives after the remains and equipment were removed “to ensure the enemy could yield no gain from the debris.”

At least seven U.S. helicopters have crashed or been forced down under hostile fire since Jan. 20. In the wake of the recent crashes, U.S. officials have said they were reviewing flight operations and tactics but maintain there is no evidence of sophisticated new weapons used in any of the latest attacks.

Wednesday’s statement raised to five that were known to have been shot down. Two private security company helicopters also have crashed but the cause was unclear.

The military statement declined to comment on insurgents weapons’ capabilities or tactics to counter them, citing security concerns.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of these fallen service members,” Pool said. “All available resources are dedicated to eliminating the threat to our aircraft so that we can continue to provide the support our ground forces.”

The Islamic State in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iraqi insurgent groups that includes al-Qaida in Iraq, claimed responsibility for downing the helicopter and issued an Internet video on Feb. 9 it said was proof. The group also claimed the recent downings of two other U.S. helicopters.

The two-minute video showed a helicopter that appears to be a Sea Knight flying. An object trailing smoke is seen in the sky nearby, then the craft bursts into orange and red flames, with a spray of debris emerging from it.

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