(Jan. 23, 2013) -- Gregory R. Aguilar, a former Army medic who is now an Army Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) cadet at UTSA recently was honored as a Soldier Hero at the 13th annual U.S. Army All American Bowl game.
Aguilar -- whose father served as a combat medic in Vietnam -- was guarding a U.S. military checkpoint in the Anbar Province of Iraq in 2003 on deployment with the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment. Sgt. Aguilar (as he was at that time) noticed a suspicious vehicle creeping up to the gate. Suddenly, gunfire erupted from the small vehicle as it broke through the first line of security nearly running Aguilar over as he began to return fire at the occupants.
Seconds later when the vehicle came to a halt and the gunfire from the vehicle ceased, Aguilar quickly assessed the situation and instinctively reverted to his role as the unit's senior medic, rushing to treat his fallen brethren.
"A vehicle rammed through our security and ended up killing one of our non-commissioned officers and injuring another," Aguilar said. "I was able to return fire upon the vehicle even though it was trying to run me over. After the vehicle went past my location, I went up to medically treat the soldiers that were injured."
When the dust settled, one soldier was killed and another was injured, but Aguilar's ability to shift from soldier to medic helped to save the life of the injured soldier. For his heroic actions during the firefight, Aguilar received a Bronze Star Medal with a V Device, one of the military's highest awards given to soldiers in combat.
Since that time, Aguilar has accumulated numerous medals and awards for his service. The Army Soldier Hero program -- his latest honor -- highlights the achievements of soldiers that have sacrificed their own safety to protect the lives of others. The Soldier Heroes selected for the game are paired with two high school athletes scheduled to play in the annual all-star game, and throughout the weeklong event the soldiers will mentor the young athletes on their experiences dealing with adversity and working as part of a team.
The first few days Aguilar was paired up with Austin Golson, a Florida State University verbal commit and John Montelus, a University of Notre Dame verbal commit and hopes his experiences as a soldier will have a positive effect on the young football players as they prepare to move on to college.
Despite all of his recent accolades, Aguilar remains humble and is usually more comfortable away from the spotlight.
"I initially didn't want to be recognized because I do not like the spotlight," Aguilar said. "But, my battalion commander asked for me to do this. And, after much thought, I decided to support the ROTC program."
Supporting the ROTC program is just one of many sacrifices that Aguilar has made throughout his career to support his country and his senior military instructor at UTSA, Master Sgt. Joseph T. Walden, couldn't agree more.
"All of Aguilar's sacrifices for the Army and his nation are something for all people to emulate," said Walden. "He is a shining example of what a soldier should look like and the Army couldn't have chosen a better soldier to represent them at the game. Not only will he do a great job of representing his country, but he will also be a great mentor to the young players at the game because of the adversity he has faced in the Army and his ability to deal with it and make tough decisions. The players also face tough decisions as they move on to college to play football and can benefit greatly from Aguilar's experience."
After just a few days into the excitement of the weeklong festivities, Aguilar met with the players, and they have shared experiences and found out that they have a lot in common.
"I have had a great time meeting the players and sharing each other's experiences," said Aguilar. "We have had a lot to talk about because football and serving in the military really parallel each other because you are part of a team that depends on one another, and you have to know your role and work hard to succeed."
For Ashaad Mabry and Triston Wade, football is not just a passing fancy. Both players were part of the UTSA football program almost from the beginning. When UTSA opens the 2015 season Thursday at Arizona, it will be the first time the Roadrunners take the field without them. But Mabry and Wade will still be playing football; their uniforms will just be a different color.
Mabry, a defensive tackle from San Antonio's MacArthur High School, was an honorable mention All-Conference USA selection his final two seasons as a Roadrunner and second among the team's defensive linemen with 49 tackles last year. Wade, a defensive back from Tyler, was the most decorated player in school history. He was a semifinalist for the 2014 Jim Thorpe Award – for the nation's top defensive back – a three-time all-conference honoree and two-year team captain who set a school record of 293 tackles in his career. Both men had outstanding college careers that allowed them to make UTSA history.
Did you know? Mabry and Wade both agreed to terms as undrafted free agents with the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks, respectively, becoming the first UTSA players to move to the professional ranks.
All campuses will be closed for the Labor Day holiday.
The UTSA College of Architecture, Construction and Planning’s 2015-16 Speaker Series begins Sept. 9 with Toshiko Mori, the Robert P. Hubbard Professor in the Practice of Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and principal of Manhattan-based Toshiko Mori Architect.
Buena Vista Building Aula Canaria (BV 1.328), Downtown Campus
Cheer on the UTSA Roadrunners at their home-opener against the Kansas State Wildcats.
Alamodome, 100 Montana St.
As part of National Recovery Month, a panel of substance abuse practitioners and members of the recovery community will discuss issues related to substance abuse treatment and recovery.
Durango Building 1.124 (DB 1.124), Downtown Campus
The UTSA College of Education and Human Development will host award-winning children’s author and illustrator Yuyi Morales. Morales will share personal stories that have influenced her work as an author and illustrator.
Buena Vista Building Aula Canaria (BV 1.328), Downtown Campus
Love of theater, history leads Lee grad to pursue anthropology degree
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