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Spc. Gil Mercado
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Army Spc. Gil Mercado, 25, of Paterson, N.J.; assigned to 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, based at Fort Campbell, Ky.; killed April 13, 2003, by a non-combat weapon discharge in Iraq.

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Gil Mercado Jr., the fourth of five children, was known as Junior as he was growing up. As an adult, he liked to be called Jay. “He didn’t really like the name Gil,” said sister Rosa Mercado of Paterson, N.J. She said her brother “always wanted to be in the Army, so he enlisted” in March 2000.

Mercado, a cook who had served in Afghanistan and Kuwait, had been based at Fort Campbell, Ky., since June 2001, according to Master Sgt. Kelly Tyler, a spokeswoman for the 101st Airborne Division. The Army said he was killed by a “a non-combat weapon discharge” in Iraq. The death is under investigation.

“We don’t know what happened. They haven’t told us,” said his oldest sister, Gisela Mercado of Haledon, N.J.

Although he was born in New Jersey, he lived with his father in Isabela, Puerto Rico, during high school.

“He was intelligent. He was a good son,” Gil Mercado Sr. said.

His son loved to draw and in Isabela he painted a mural depicting a half-man, half-robot character who defeated evil. They lived together on the Caribbean island for about five years, his father said. The last time the elder Mercado heard from his son was several months ago when he was in Afghanistan.

Mercado’s wife, Lucy, is from Colombia, his father said. The two met in New Jersey and lived on post in Kentucky. He has a brother, Alnardo, serving in an artillery unit in Iraq.

Gil Mercado Sr. said he didn’t know his son was in Iraq until three military officers arrived at his home Monday to break the news. “The truth is I don’t know very much about what happened to my son.”

— USA Today, Associated Press