(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."
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