San Antonio – The death of a 10-year combat veteran in a head-on crash has left a hole in the hearts of his loved ones, including the men and women he served with.
Jose Luna, 33, did three combat tours, was awarded two purple hearts, and was a Ranger in addition to many other accolades.
Roland Keller, his former commanding officer, said he was beyond a great leader and a good man.
“The guy would dash out in front of bullets to save a brother,” Keller said. “To save a civilian. He was a pure hearted person. We had a great professional relationship. We served together on several duty assignments. He leaves a lasting impression on everyone of us. He had a heart of gold.”
Luna’s close friend and infantry brother Ricky Parra agreed.
“He would make fun of me because I didn’t know Spanish,” Parra laughed. “We had a lot of jokes. We joked, we pranked and that was pretty much the whole deal between all of us. We fought through a lot and we took a lot of losses during those deployments. A lot of the guys would lean on each other and he was a big part of that.”
Though he was a jokester, making people laugh and smile during some of the hardest time during his service, Luna knew how to be professional at the same time.
“He was so mature that he would be the one leading and pointing me in the right direction,” Parra said. “He was so confident and thoughtful in his work.”
Luna’s family said nobody heard from him which is why they were concerned.
“We got out and were driving around to see if we could find anything because we hadn’t heard from him,” said Hector Paz, his brother-in-law. “We were trying to re-track his steps because it was unlike him not to call. He was always at work, then he’d come straight home. That was his routine and then he would put his little ones to bed.”
Everyone was devastated when they heard the news.
“We just stopped,” Keller said. “It is just still pretty fresh. A Tremendous loss.”
“The first thing that went through my mind is the fact that we could survive all the crap and gunfire and the explosions and the bombs and the attacks and for anyone of us to go out like this,” Parra said. “I was angry. I was angry. I was very very angry.”
“I can’t imagine just coming back to the civil world and getting yourself back together after being in survival mode after so many years and he was thriving and this happened,” Paz said. “I have no words. Just sadness. It is like we are living in a dream.”
They said Luna will forever be remembered for his smile and humor.
“Some times we would be out there,” Keller said. “You’re out there for three days straight. Everybody is tired. Everyone is hot. You throw something out there on the radio that cracks up the entire network and he would do that. He would have us all cracking up. He knew how to break the tension.”
Luna will also be remembered for his leadership and brotherhood.
“He had an old soul and a big kid was wrapped around it,” Parra said.
Luna loved his wife and four young sons ages 1, 3, 10 and 11.
“Amazing dad,” Paz said. He would come in no matter what time and get the routine done. Lets wash the bottles, get them fed, play with them, walk them around. Great father.”
They said they hope this loss reminds others to be careful with their actions.
“Everything has a ripple effect,” Paz said. “Be more conscious of your actions because unbeknownst to you, you could be making a big impact. Could be positive or negative.”
“It was just so many bad decisions rolled into one,” Keller said. “And that cost this man his life. Cost his family their father, husband, son, brother. We have to be better people. The families of those other men are hurting just as much.”
Now, those who loved Luna are raising money to help his widow and four children as they deal with this tragic loss.
“We will continue to love him and his family like he loved us while he was alive,” Keller said.
“Every single one of us will hop in our car or the first thing smoking to get over there to help them,” Parra said. “He is right here,” he said as he touched his heart and with tears in his eyes. “He isn’t going anywhere. He is always going to be remembered.”
If anyone would like to help, they are urging people to contact Hector Paz at (210)591-3158.