(Taken from www.lcsun-news.com)LAS CRUCES - As the American flag waved at half-staff over Gadsden High School's annual Veterans Day assembly on Tuesday, students who gathered with faculty and staff to pay tribute to those who have served were reminded that sometimes war hits much too close to home.
During the ceremony, which honored veterans around the world along with more than a dozen in attendance, the assembled students observed a moment of silence for Army Spc. Tony Carrasco Jr., who was killed Nov. 4 in Ad Dawr, Iraq, after being hit by sniper fire, according to Army officials. Carrasco, 25, was a 2003 graduate of GHS.
Carrasco's former teacher at GHS, Christina Lessau, who described herself as a close family friend, spoke during the ceremony, describing Carrasco as man who was protective of his family and of his country.
"Tony is one of my heroes," she said in a voice strained with emotion. "Today we dedicate this to Tony Carrasco, who was a unique human being."
Lessau wiped away tears as she embraced members of Carrasco's family, who received red carnations and purple irises from the students.
In honor of Carrasco and Maj. Eduardo Caraveo, 52, a former counselor at the school who was killed in last week's shooting at Fort Hood, members of the Navy JROTC Drill Team at Gadsden High School performed a maneuver patterned after the aerial salute known as the missing man formation, in which one jet abruptly veers away from the formation.
Petty Officer 1st Class Rodrigo Robles, 16, a junior, represented the "missing man" in Tuesday's performance, which also honored all fallen military personnel.
"It was a great honor doing it," he said after the assembly. "It was just to thank them for the job they do."
Carrasco and his wife, Johana, and stepchildren were stationed at Fort Riley, Kan. Members of Carrasco's family declined to be interviewed, but in comments provided by Lessau, Johana Carrasco, who is expecting the couple's child, described her husband as the love of her life, who treated her and her children with love and respect.
Other family members expressed their shock at his death, and described Carrasco as a happy, playful person. His parents praised his bravery in choosing to join the Army and fight for freedom.
The Army lists Berino, N.M., as Carrasco's hometown, but Lessau said he and his family lived in nearby Anthony, N.M. Carrasco was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division in Fort Riley.
Carrasco is survived by his parents, Antonio and Juana Carrasco; wife, Johana Carrasco, and unborn child; stepdaughter, Ilse, and stepson, Axel; sisters, Rosie Carrasco (Raymond Flores), Susana Carrasco (Adrian Cardona) and Jessica Carrasco (Steven Lopez), nephew Raymond Flores Jr. and niece Kayla Flores, as well as other family members and friends.
A viewing for Carrasco will be held 2 p.m. Friday at Iglesia Jesucristo Apostolica in Berino. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the same church.