BRONX, NY, USA
PV2, TROOP C, 1ST SQUADRON, 71ST CAVALRY, 1BCT, FORT DRUM, NY
SOUTH OF TUZ, IRAQ 11/27/2007
Before Isaac T. Cortes died a hero in Iraq this week, friends and relatives in his Bronx neighborhood knew him as the kid who helped elders carry their groceries and, the first one to embrace childhood dares.
“If there was a fence to hop, Isaac was the first to say ‘I’ll do it,'” remembers his childhood pal, said John Harvey, 29, who grew up in the same apartment building in Parkchester with Cortes and stood Thursday in the very same courtyard where he and Cortes and other neighborhood kids played. “If there was a dare, Isaac would do it. He was very free and nothing was going to stand in his way.”
An infantryman, Cortes, 26, enlisted in the Army in January and finished his combat training at Fort Benning, Ga., right before he was deployed to Iraq.
Just before he left for Iraq, Cortes told his cousin Miguel Cortes that he was happy with his decision to enlist and to make the Army a career.
Still, “you could tell he was apprehensive,” Cortes said Thursday.
Isaac Cortes told him the training was much harder than he expected. Still, his uncle had been in the Navy; his dad, with whom he was very close, was a military police officer in the Army, and Isaac was ready to go.
“This has been a shock for us — it hit us real hard,” said Miguel Cortes, who last saw his cousin several days before he shipped out for Iraq. “He was in good spirits. He was happy about enlisting. He wanted to start a career with the Army.”
In the short month after arriving in Iraq, Cortes’ military honors include the Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and an Army Service ribbon, relatives said. People in his neighborhood were stunned and mourning Thursday.
“He was a tremendous man,” said neighbor and longtime family friend Franciso Mercado, who lives in the same building and had worked with Cortes’ father, also named Isaac, for more than 30 years as a maintenance employee for the Parkchester Condominiums where Cortes’ family still lives.
“Isaac was very close to his father. He was a good son and I know his father is very hurt right now,” said Mercado, 64. “It’s sad. Isaac had everything in life right in front of him.”
Another longtime neighbor, Doris Pinon, 48, said she cried when she heard Cortes was killed in Iraq. “It was shocking. We had just seen him.
“He was a wonderful person – always courteous. As a little boy he’d help elders with their grocery bags,” Pinon said. “As a Christian, I know he is in a much better place and that he is no longer suffering.”
Isaac Cortes is survived by his parents, a younger brother, Chris, and two sons. His immediate family could not be reached for comment Thursday.