LAKE WORTH, Fla. - Lake Worth High School is remembering one of its own. Marine Lance Corporal Jose Hernandez gave his life for his country and fellow Marines in Afghanistan last month. Tuesday, his alma mater honored this 2009 graduate and hero by adding his name to their memorial wall, making sure his service to his country will never be forgotten.
“He was someone who meant a lot,” said 1st Lt. Cameron Bellantonio, who served under Hernandez in the Air Force JROTC.
“It’s hard to talk about because he’s my baby brother,” admitted Aronica Nava, Hernandez’s sister. “He’s the baby out of all of us.”
Lance Corporal Jose Hernandez was just 19, not much older than the students who were honoring him.
Hernandez, whose lifelong dream was to join the Marine Corps, served with the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. His dream took him all the way to Afghanistan where he made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
The 2009 Lake Worth High School graduate stepped on an improvised explosive device last month. He urged his fellow Marines to move to safety before moving his foot, causing the device to go off. His actions saved several Marines but cost him his own life.
“I’m proud. I’m very, very proud,” said Nava, “but at the same time, I’m hurt because I don’t think he should have left so soon. He was so young.”
In his memory, Lake Worth High School placed a wreath at their memorial wall and etched his name permanently in the monument. Bellantonio said Hernandez deserves the honor. He called him a true leader.
“When I was under his command back in my freshman year, he treated us firmly but he also treated us fairly,” explained Bellantonio. “He made sure that everybody was where they needed to be and now that he’s gone, it’s just heartbreaking.”
The names of thirty-four veterans who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam grace Lake Worth High’s memorial. Lance Corporal Jose Hernandez’s name marks the first time anyone has been added to the memorial from recent wars.
“It’s a real honor,” said Nava. “I’m very happy. It was a beautiful ceremony for him. He took pride in what he did and he took pride in his school.”
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