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Sgt. Juan P. Navarro remembered

Young NCO shared love for life with those around him

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The 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Family and friends said their final goodbyes to a comrade as photos of the young sergeant during happier times, scrolled on a screen at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Lewis North Chapel Aug. 1.

The Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment remembered words Sgt. Juan P. Navarro shared before his death.

"God loves me enough to let me go through the lessons I came here to learn. Even the ones that hurt the most." Navarro died July 7 from wounds he suffered in an improvised explosive device attack in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. Navarro's commanders reflected on his skills as a leader, his care for his men and his mission focus.

"Whether it was freezing in Yakima or burning up at the National Training Center, he was always smiling, he was always trying to get the mission done," said Lt. Col. Wilson Rutherford, battalion commander, 1-23 Inf. in comments sent from Afghanistan. "What an example he set for me and for all of us here. He wasn't focused on his own hardships. He focused on those around him and what he could do to protect them."

As many thought back on the life of the young NCO, two attributes were always at the forefront - his sense of humor and his love for life.

"He was one of the first people I met. He was always very upbeat and always cracking jokes with a smile on his face. As I got to know him and the Soldiers of my platoon, more and more I realized how everyone was drawn to him and always wanted to be around him," said Sgt. Lance Palen, team leader, A. Company, 1-23 Inf. "He wasn't just an amazing leader. He was an amazing friend as well, who would be there at the drop of a hat no matter the time or place."

Navarro had big plans for his future in his military career, his academic and personal life.

"He had spoken to me early about the possibility of attending Ranger School and the fact that he aspired to earn a college degree," Capt. Andrew Smith, A Co., 1-23 Inf. commander, said. "His vision was always forward looking and he was constantly seeking a way to better himself as an individual and a Soldier."

In Memoriam

Sergeant Juan P. Navarro, an Austin, Texas, native, graduated from Lanier High School in 2007 and enlisted in the U.S. Army in June 2008.

This was his second deployment with the 1-23 Inf. His first was in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from August 2009 to June 2010. He deployed to Afghanistan in March 2012 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

With Navarro the first to join the military, his Family knew he would be nothing but a brave Soldier when faced with combat.

"He wasn't afraid," said his brother-in-law Eleazar Dominguez in an interview with the American-Statesman. "He was courageous. He wasn't afraid of gunshots. He wasn't afraid of anything."

The infectious sense of humor and laughter that was commonly remembered by Sgt. Navarro's Soldiers also resonated with his Family.

"He was the type of person that even if he didn't know you he would give you a big smile and a hug," Miguel Pantoja, his older brother, said. "I'm proud of everything he did. I'm proud of him because he did what he wanted to do."

He is survived by his father, Victor Navarro and mother, Christina Pantosa.

Navarro's was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart posthumously and his awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal (ISAF), Combat Infantryman's Badge and Drivers Badge.

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