SAN ANTONIO, TX, USA U.S. Army SGT, MEDICAL COMPANY, 10TH SUSTAINMENT BRIGADE, FORT DRUM, NY MUSA QULAH, AFGHANISTAN 06/14/2006
Sergeant Roger Peña Jr from San Antionia, Texas graduated from Harlandale High School and attended the University of Texas at Austin. Three years later he enlisted in the Army. He was assigned as a Combat Medic to the 10th Sustainment Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, New York. According to Roger Pena Sr., “His son loved the army. He did what he loved. He joined the service on his own free will to protect this country and all of us, because that’s what he believed in.”
Roger was deployed to Afghanistan in March 2006. After surviving one ambush, Roger Pena Jr. was sent back to the same mission. He died in Musa Qulah Afghanistan, on June 14, when his convoy came under enemy small arms fire during combat operations. He leaves behind a wife and two sons.
A good student who made excellent grades, Roger was in the youth club at St. Leo’s Catholic Church and he enjoyed competing in chess against kids from the North Side.
Nine years old when his father began teaching him chess, Pena took to it quickly. He joined the chess club when he got to Harlandale Middle School and began taking part in more serious competitions. He ended up as a Texas junior champion.
“Roger was one of the top players at that time in the state,” said Felix Fierros Jr., a chess coach and computer literacy teacher at the middle school at the time.
Fierros, who will be teaching at Inez Foster Elementary School in the fall, said the football coaches at Harlandale High School, where Pena played on the football and soccer teams, were overjoyed at his chess-playing ability.
“Because of chess, coaches knew he could think ahead and calculate what strategies would be needed in football,” Fierros said. “Besides that, he was one of those kids who are a born leader. He had the looks, the smarts, the charisma and the kids liked him.”
Pena almost attended Texas A&M University, but his father talked him into attending the University of Texas at Austin because it was closer to home. His goal was to graduate and teach history.
At UT, he met a pretty student from Mission, Marisol Gomez. He took a semester off after they got married, thinking he would return to get his degree. Instead, until he joined the Army, Pena worked with the H.E. Butt Grocery Co., first at the store on Fredericksburg Road, then at the one on Goliad Road. The sergeant made his last visit home in January to see Marisol, their two sons, Ivan, 5, and Gabriel, 2, and his parents.
“When he arrived, he told his mother he needed a home-cooked meal,” his father said. “He liked everything, but Mexican food was his favorite.”
Now, Pena’s little boys have no idea what has happened to their father.
“They know he’s away, but they don’t know that he’s never coming back,” their grandfather said.