WATSONVILLE, CA, USA U.S. Army CPL, COMPANY B, 321ST MILITARY INTELLIGENCE BATTALION (TF GUARDIAN), FORT HOOD, TEXAS ORGUN-E, AFGHANISTAN 06/11/2006
From his high school principal to his college coaches, everyone who knew Army Corporal Bernard P. Corpuz, killed Sunday during combat operations in Ghanzi, Afghanistan, remembered him as a dedicated athlete and all-around nice guy.
Corpuz, 28, who graduated from Palma High School in Salinas in 1995, has family in the Royal Oaks area near Watsonville, but they declined to speak about him.
Brother Patrick Dunne, principal of Palma, described Corpuz as a “wiry fellow who was eager to please, happy-go-lucky and outgoing.”
“When he came here, he didn’t know anybody, but he made friends very quickly,” said Dunne, adding that Corpuz’s family moved to the area from Southern California.
“Everybody who was here at that time would know Bernard Corpuz,” Dunne said. “This is so sad for his family, the Watsonville community and Palma High. He was just the nicest boy.”
Although Dunne described Corpuz as an academic late-bloomer, he said Corpuz was often able to see the larger picture and was “wise beyond his years.” He was also well versed in the value of competition as an athlete on both the track and soccer teams.
“Even though he was not the best athlete out there, he did better than the others because he worked very hard,” Dunne said.
Dunne remembered a running joke he had with Corpuz, who was always on time even though he traveled from Watsonville every day to the private Catholic school for boys. Corpuz continued to visit the school years after he graduated, and a former vice principal chatted with him recently in Monterey, where he was taking classes at the Defense Language Institute, Dunne said.
In his 19 years at Palma, Dunne said Corpuz was the first student killed in combat.
Corpuz died when his convoy came under small arms fire and an improvised explosive device detonated during the exchange.
He was assigned to the 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion, 504th Brigade, of Ft. Hood, Texas. The unit was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, the military effort launched by the United States in response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Former coaches described Corpuz as a dedicated athlete who ran the 400 intermediate hurdles for two years at Hartnell after graduating from Palma. He then attended the University of La Verne, a small liberal arts college in Southern California, until he graduated in 2000.
“I’m really sorry to hear that,” said Gary Shaw, the former head coach of the Hartnell track and field team, after learning of the news. Shaw spoke to the Register-Pajaronian via cell phone from Vancouver, after retiring from the school last week.
“He was a team player, great guy and a pretty good student,” Shaw said. “He was well-liked by everyone.”
Pat Widolff, head track coach at the University of La Verne, said Corpuz worked hard while on the track team for one year. “He seemed like a likable kid,” Widolff said. “He was really into school. He studied history and I remember having him being a little more savvy about current events than your typical kid.”
Corpuz is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.