Gypsum Marine dies in Iraq |

Gypsum Marine dies in Iraq

Lance Cpl. Evenor C. Herrera, a Gypsum resident, was kllled in Iraq earlier this week.

Lance Cpl. Evenor C. Herrera adopted the United States as his country and Wednesday perished while serving it.”He was very proud to be in the Marines,” cousin Kelly Matias said. “He adopted this country as his own. He was willing to die for the peace here.”Herrera, of Gypsum, died from injuries suffered when a bomb exploded during combat near Ar Ramadi, Iraq, about 35 miles west of Fallujah, the U.S. Defense Department reported. He was a machine gunner assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Pendleton, Calif. According to the Defense Department, 1,841 U.S. soldiers have been killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Herrera is believed to be the first from Eagle County.The Eagle Valley High School graduate and his family immigrated from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in 1992.

“He joined because he wanted to have more opportunity in this country,” said his mother, Blanca Stibbs, through a translator, her sister, Gilma Miranda. “He wanted a career with the Marines.”He would have returned home from his second tour of duty in Iraq at the end of September, said his brother, Balmore Herrera, who also is a Marine. Stibbs said her son was a sweet, nice boy whose death has been very painful for the entire family. Evenor Herrera’s immediate family also includes two older sisters, all of whom are very close, Miranda said. The last time Miranda saw her nephew was in February, when he came home to go snowboarding before leaving for Iraq. Snowboarding was just one of the many activities he enjoyed. “He loved to camp with my son,” Miranda said.Evenor and his hiking companions often struck out into the mountains near Gypsum or Eagle for a night in the wilderness.

Balmore Herrera said his brother stayed in consistent contact with his mother while he was stationed in Iraq.”He always used to tell her not to worry about him,” Balmore said. “[He’d say] one of the reasons he is there is to make sure she is OK and other families are OK.”Balmore Herrera, 20, has served in the Marines for three years. He said he remains dedicated to the military.”[I feel] as strongly as when we joined,” he said. “We knew the risks involved and this doesn’t change my perspective.”Evenor Herrera’s body will be brought back to the United States this week. Funeral plans will be made in the near future.

Evenor Herrera had received a number of awards, including the Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Camp Pendleton officials said.”I would just like for whoever knew him to never forget him … and remember him as a hero,” Matias said.The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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