Joseph M. Hernandez

Joseph Hernandez—Jan 2010 Shipment Honoree

Soldier loved animals, sons

Sources: The Associated Press, Military Times

Joseph HernandezJoseph M. Hernandez was an animal lover. He once saw a dog fall through a frozen lake, so he jumped in and saved it. At one point, he and his wife shared a two-bedroom apartment with four cats and three dogs.

Hernandez, 24, of Hammond, Ind., died Jan. 9 of wounds suffered when a bomb detonated near his vehicle in Jaldak, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Hohenfels, Germany.

He studied mechanical engineering and biology at Purdue University for two years. In 2002, he surprised his friends and family when he announced he was joining the Army.

“He said it was something he felt he had to do,” said his wife, Alison. “He never had anything bad to say about the military. He just decided to join. He felt it was his duty.”

Hernandez also is survived by his sons, Jacob, 2, and Noah, 9 months.

He enjoyed working on old cars and teaching his older son how to fly mini model airplanes.  When Hernandez was younger, he badly wanted to play piano. The family finally bought one, and he started playing it as it was being carried into the house. His mother asked him how he knew to play, and he said he had been practicing on paper.

Hammond soldier dies in Afghanistan

January 13, 2009
By Christin Nance Lazerus
Courtesy of the (Indiana) Post-Tribune
Joseph M. Hernandez
Joseph M. Hernandez

Alison Hernandez usually received a call from her husband, Hammond native Specialist Joseph M. Hernandez, every two days while he was stationed in Afghanistan.

Hernandez was waiting for him to contact her on Friday, but she felt something wasn’t right.   “My stomach hurt. I wasn’t feeling well. I broke down and cried to my dad, and said ‘I need my husband’,” she said.   That night, Army representatives delivered the solemn news to her that Joseph was killed earlier in the day in a roadside bomb attack.

Major Brian M. Mescall, 33, of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and Specialist Jason R. Parsons, 24, of Lenoir, North Carolina, also died when an improvised explosive device detonated near their armored Humvee in Jaldak, Afghanistan.

Hernandez, 24, is survived by his wife and two sons — Jacob, 2 , and Noah, 9 months. He is also survived by his parents, Elva Hernandez and Jessie Hernandez; his two brothers, Jesse and Jason Hernandez; and other relatives.

Specialist Hernandez was recalled as a dedicated father and husband and someone who loved cars, music and animals.   Hernandez joined the Army in 2005 and he was in Afghanistan for the past 6 months. He was stationed in Hohenfels, Germany, as part of the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, and he lived in military housing there with his family.   Alison and the boys traveled back to Northwest Indiana for the holidays, and Joseph was scheduled to join them in early March.

Joseph Hernandez
Joseph Hernandez

Hernandez played soccer for four years at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago, and he boxed at Whiting Boxing Club. He was an altar boy and sang in the choir at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in the Hessville section of Hammond.   Alice Gordon, Alison’s grandmother, considered Joseph as one of her grandchildren.   “I loved him dearly and he spent a lot of time at my house,” Gordon said.   Hernandez attended Holy Cross, then he entered the mechanical engineering and biology programs at Purdue University in West Lafayette.   Alison Hernandez said that he adopted four cats and three dogs while he was working at the local humane society, including a drowning dog that he saved.

He enjoyed working on old cars and teaching his older son how to fly mini model airplanes.

His wife said she keeps expecting Joseph to text her or get word that it’s all a mistake.

“You plan your life and you just have all these things that you want to do and you don’t have a chance to do them any more,” Alison Hernandez said.   “I talked to him on Wednesday, and he told me everything was fine, but he also was telling me all of his plans that he wanted to do when he got back.”   He planned on taking his family to a Chicago Cubs preseason game and eating at Gino’s East.   “He was my soul mate,” Alison Hernandez said.

The family has not finalized the exact date and time of the funeral services. The funeral service will be conducted at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Hernandez will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on January 23, 2009.

Hernandez used to serve in the Old Guard, which presided at funerals in Arlington.

Full Military Honors Honor a Soldier’s Full Sacrifice

First Enlisted Soldier Buried Under New Arlington Policy

By Mark Berman
Courtesy of The Washington Post
Saturday, January 24, 2009

Joseph M. Hernandez, 24, was a family man with a wife and two young sons. But he was also an Army man and a soldier. Yesterday, he became the first enlisted soldier to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery under a new policy that allows those killed in action full military honors.

“He said it was something he felt he had to do,” his wife, Alison Hernandez, 22, told the Chicago Tribune last week about his military service. “He never had anything bad to say about the military. He just decided to join. He felt it was his duty.”

Specialist Hernandez, of Hammond, Indiana, died January 9, 2009, in the Zabul province of Afghanistan after a makeshift explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Jaldak.

Hernandez was the 82nd casualty from Afghanistan to be buried there. The new Army policy took effect January 1, 2009. Previously, full honors were reserved for officers and enlisted personnel who reached the highest enlisted rank of E-9, according to cemetery officials.

In the past, limited resources, among other things, have hindered having more full honors services. A standard honors service includes a firing party, bugler and chaplain; full honors also includes a band, colors team, escort platoon and horse-drawn caisson.

“Arlington National Cemetery is an expression of our nation’s reverence for those who served her in uniform, many making the ultimate sacrifice,” said Secretary of the Army Pete Geren about the policy change in a release last month. “Arlington and those honored there are part of our national heritage. This new policy provides a common standard for honoring all soldiers killed in action.”

Hernandez’s ceremony didn’t include all the elements because of scheduling and weather issues. Both of the cemetery’s caissons were already scheduled for use yesterday, and Hernandez’s widow opted to have the service sooner rather than waiting for a later date when a caisson would be available, said Kaitlin Horst, cemetery spokeswoman.

And instead of a full military band, there was only a drummer because the band doesn’t perform when the weather is below freezing due to the impact of cold on instruments, Horst said. “Anything in addition to standard honors is considered a full honors service,” she added.

More than 100 mourners turned out yesterday to return Hernandez to the place where he had served as a member of the Old Guard. An escort removed his silver casket from a silver hearse and carried it to the grave site.

Flags were presented to Alison Hernandez, their two young sons and her husband’s parents, Elva and Jessie Hernandez. As the flags were given out, 9-month-old Noah Hernandez, wailed loudly from where he was being held in the front row. His older brother, Jacob, stood in front of the seats and accepted a flag that seemed almost as big as his 2-year-old body.

Killed along with Hernandez were Maj. Brian M. Mescall, 33, of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and Sergeant Jason R. Parsons, 24, of Lenoir, North Carolina. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 4th Infant Regiment, based at Hohenfels, Germany. Mescall will be buried at Arlington on Monday.

Alison Hernandez told the Post-Tribune newspaper of Northern Indiana that her husband called her every two days while he was in Afghanistan. On January 9, she waited for the call and felt something wasn’t right.

“My stomach hurt,” she told the Post-Tribune. “I wasn’t feeling well. I broke down and cried to my dad, and said, ‘I need my husband.’ ”

Alison and their sons lived in military housing with Hernandez in Hohenfels. She and the boys came back to the United States for the holidays, and Hernandez was going to join them in March. Instead, on the night of January 9, Army representatives informed her of her husband’s death.

“It was a nightmare come true,” Robert Gordon Jr., Alison Hernandez’s father, told the Chicago Tribune. “I heard her scream from the porch. I got up and she fell through the door. ‘He’s gone.’ ”

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