Less than two years ago, Roy Velez got the worst news a father could get: His oldest son was dead, killed during combat in Iraq.
This week, his pain only deepened with news that his youngest son had died in Afghanistan.
Military officials notified the Velez family Tuesday of the death of Army Spc. Andrew Velez, 22. His brother, Army Cpl. Jose A. Velez, 23, died in November 2004 in Fallujah when his unit came under fire while clearing an enemy stronghold.
“I can’t be angry. I feel like my heart’s been pulled out,” Roy Velez said Tuesday. “We’ve done what the Lord allowed us to do for our country.”
The family lost its only sons; there is one daughter.
The military does not have a regulation prohibiting the deployment of family members at the same time. But families can request that relatives return home if one is killed or disabled.
After his brother’s death, the military gave Andrew Velez the option of not returning to combat, Roy Velez said. But Andrew Velez told his father he wanted to return to fight, his father said.
“You always do it for your buddy next to you,” Roy Velez recalled his younger son saying.
Roy Velez last talked to Andrew Velez on the phone Saturday. His son told him he’d had “six close calls” as they tracked Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, and that he was tired.
‘I'll see you in August’
He was scheduled to return for 10 days of leave during the last week of August. “He said, ’Daddy, I’ll see you in August,”’ Roy Velez said.
Andrew Velez joined the Army about five years ago. He graduated in 2002 from Estacado High School in Lubbock. During his school years, he wrestled, played football and basketball and ran track. He also loved playing golf.
His older brother, Jose, joined the Army after graduating from the same high school in 2000 and hoped to attend medical school one day. He played football and was an honor student.
After his death, Jose Velez was awarded two Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star and a Silver Star. But burglars stole them all from his parents’ home in June.
On Monday, the medals were replaced, thanks to the assistance of U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, Roy Velez said. “And today at 12:30 I learned my other son was killed in action,” he said.
Andrew Velez’s survivors include his wife, Veronica Velez; a daughter, Jasmine Jade, 5; and two sons, Jordan Davis, 3, and Jacob Andrew, 2.