Sgt. Ariel Rico Memorial Book
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Soldier's siblings, friends recall his humor, loyalty
El Paso Times
Family and friends of Sgt. Ariel Rico -- a 1996 Del Valle High School graduate who died Friday in Iraq after a mortar
attack -- are still trying to accept the death of the man, known as "Artie" to loved ones, whom they described as sweet, funny
"It still hasn't hit me," said Mirna Armendariz, 29, Rico's sister, during a telephone interview from her home in Phoenix.
"I guess it's because he was such a fighter. He was really strong, and maybe I just don't want to believe it."
Rico, who is remembered by most for his comedic behavior, was the 11th soldier with El Paso ties to have been killed in
Iraq and the third El Paso native to die since the war began in March.
Rico, 25, was in Iraq with the 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division when four mortar
shells pounded the division's base in Mosul. The division is based in Fort Campbell, Ky., and Rico is the post's 53rd soldier
to die as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Funeral arrangements have not been confirmed, but Armendariz and her older brother, Staff Sgt. Jose "Bobby" Rico, are both
expecting to fly to El Paso later this week to finalize any arrangements. Rico's widow, Jessica Rico, was not available for
"She's hanging in there, but the loss of a loved one is tough," said Tony Orozco, Jessica Rico's father, who answered the
phone at Rico's home in Kentucky. The couple, who were high school sweethearts, have a 7-year-old daughter, Jadelyn.
Spc. Michael Torres, who is currently stationed in Tikrit, Iraq, with the 4th Infantry Division, said in an e-mail to the
El Paso Times that he was "sad to learn that one of my friends was killed in Mosul."
"I went to elementary school with Artie and lived just around the corner from his house," Torres said. "Artie was a good
person ... always making me laugh. Every little thing he did was to make someone laugh."
Jose Rico, 30, who called his brother "narizón" (big nose), said he was surprised when his younger brother joined the Army.
"I wanted something better for him than the Army, but it's something he really wanted to do and I backed him up 100 percent,"
he said during a telephone interview from his home in Mississippi.
Armendariz said she is very proud of her younger brother because he was helping to protect his family and his country.
"He had the biggest heart out of all of us," she said. "When we were younger, I was always protecting him. I remember beating
up a little boy in school because he was picking on Artie."
In high school, "Artie" was not only able to protect himself from bullies but also joined the football team and played
on Del Valle's varsity squad his senior year.
"He was a very happy-go-lucky kid, and everyone loved him because he was very sincere," said Mike Beltran, Del Valle football
assistant coach. "He always wanted to be a Conquistador, and he eventually was. He was one of Del Valle's finest."
English teacher Marsha Gee said although Rico was silly in the classroom, she knew that he was a very loyal friend, son
"When I learned about his death, I felt a sort of emptiness," Gee said. "In the course of teaching, you lose students to
accidents, but this is my first student lost to a war, and it's hard to lose good people like Artie."
Ariel Rico's death is the third for the Rico family. Their father died in 1983 of a heart attack, and their mother died
in 1998 of breast cancer.
"I'm going to miss his stupid jokes," Rico's sister, Mirna, said. "He never called me by my name. He always called me "sis,"
and I think that is what I'm going to miss the most."
"I'll miss his love and how much he loved to joke around," said Rico's brother, Jose. "Whenever I do grow up, I want to
be just like my little brother."
Laura Cruz may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6136.
Soldiers from Battery C, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division stand at
a memorial service Tuesday for Sgt. Ariel Rico at Camp Eagle in Mosul, Iraq. Rico died Friday when mortars hit the camp, which
is headquarters for the Fort Campbell, Ky.-based division. Kendra Helmer / S&S
A 101st Airborne Division soldier comforts a fellow soldier at memorial service for Sgt. Ariel Rico. Kendra
Helmer / S&S
Soldiers at the memorial service for Sgt. Ariel Rico. Kendra Helmer / S&S
Sergeant's personality 'rocked the world'
Kendra Helmer, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Wednesday, December
MOSUL, Iraq — Sgt. Ariel Rico smiled even as water flooded his living space at Camp Eagle. Falling face first into
mud while pushing a Humvee didn’t wipe away his grin, either.
“I think someone forgot to tell Sgt. Rico that there was an emotion besides happiness,” said Capt. Steven C.
Fahlenkamp at Rico’s memorial service Tuesday.
Rico, 26, who died Friday after four mortars struck near the Mosul palace, was remembered by buddies as a lighthearted
mentor and family man.
About 150 people gathered for the service on a cold, foggy morning outside the palace, the 101st Airborne Division headquarters.
Tearful soldiers embraced after filing past the gunner’s helmet, carbine and boots. Propped against them was a photo
of Rico on Thanksgiving, the day before he died.
“Sgt. Rico just had a look about him that said, ‘I am funny,’” said 1st Sgt. Timothy E. Howard.
In February, Rico was assigned to Battery C, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment. He requested the assignment
to his old battery, which he had first served with in Fort Campbell, Ky., when he joined the military five years ago.
Word spread quickly earlier this year that Rico was heading back to Fort Campbell. Fahlenkamp, the battery commander, said
three soldiers in 30 minutes approached him and said, “Rico’s coming back. We have to do whatever it takes to
get him back in the battery.”
The El Paso, Texas, native was known for getting the job done and pumping up his soldiers with comments such as “Slap
it up, baby,” and the standard greeting, “What’s up, pah-tner?” The R&B and rap music fan was
quick to talk about his family, whose photos splashed the walls around his cot.
Minutes before the 11:30 a.m. attack, Howard talked to Rico, who was on his way to get cash. Howard asked Rico to get some
for him, too.
“He said with the funniest facial expression I have seen from him yet, ‘How much, first sarge? Ten, 15 Gs?
You ask for it, you got it.’ It wasn’t what he said that made me laugh, it was just the way he packaged it ...
the goofy grin, the way he carried himself,” Howard said.
Sgt. Michael Deason was stationed at Camp Casey, South Korea, with Rico in 2002.
“He had a personality that rocked the world,” he said. “No matter what, he would always pick you up and
make your day brighter.”
After his Korea tour, Rico returned to his old battery. “He wanted to come home; this is a family here,” said
Staff Sgt. Justin Trujillo.
In Mosul, Rico was the 4th section gunner for the battery, the primary guard force for the division’s headquarters.
He was responsible for tower guard, entry control points and the quick reactionary force. He was the first soldier in the
“Red Knights” battalion to die since the division arrived in Iraq in March.
He is survived by his wife, Jessica, and daughter, Jadelyn, 7.
Howard said Rico’s dying words were, “Tell my family that I love them.”