I lost my cousin back in February of 2007 in Iraq. Purple Fox, Sgt. James Rodney Tijerina of the Marine Corps. Semper Fi! Latin for “always faithful,” Semper Fidelis has been the Marine Corps motto since 1883. It embodies the promise to always remain faithful, no matter what.

I remember that day very clearly. I was just twenty three at the time & working as a Manager at one of the retail stores in La Centerra in San Antonio. I was working in the back of the store & reconfiguring the schedule on the computer while a few of my stockers were busy at work trying to unload the new shipment of clothes & restock the back shelves. We were also doing a big clearance haul, so I had additional staff in the back when all of a sudden I got a call. It said Home on my blackberry & I immediately picked up & casually said, “Hey, whats up I’m at work?” Immediately, I heard my older sister’s voice at the other end in what sounded like a half cry, half moan, “JR is dead. They killed him. JR. JR is dead.” I stopped looking at the computer screen & typing, looked up but not really focusing on anything other than what she had just said. My ears had heard the words clearly but my brain was having issues computing what it was that she had just said. I manage to whisper, “What did you say?” I clearly knew what had been said but was refusing to accept that what she was saying had any merit of truth. I mean, it couldn’t be true. JR dead? At 27? Absolutely not. Then, she practically yelled, “JR died! He died! They just called Dad & Mom to tell them because they thought that they were his parents so we aren’t sure if Uncle Pete & Aunt Lillie know yet.” She stops to catch her breath & I can hear a distant crying in the background. So when I say my heart sank, it literally deflated plummeted & invertedly regressed into itself. My body felt instantly heavy & numb from the heartache as I slumped to the cold tile floor sobbing immense volumes of tears. I was completely unaware of my surroundings all of a sudden. All I could feel was an engulfing of utter sadness. Sadness for my aunt & uncle & two cousins who had just lost their brother in a brutal way. Sadness for his new wife & the lost future together. Sadness for our great American country as we lost not only him but other warriors in Iraq that same day. Such profound grief at knowing that JR would have had such a phenomenal future. However, God had other plans. God had huge, giant filled plans for JR & his fellow Marines to transcend into heaven that day not just fighting for the dismantling of their government in Iraq at the time but to start fighting for his sons & daughters against a much more profound enemy.

We lost so many soldiers lives during the Iraq War. His was one of them.

There are so many soldiers that have given their lives & their future with their own families to keep not only America safe but other countries & causes as well. I am proud to have had not only JR, but my maternal Grandfather, several maternal Uncles served in various branches of the military. If you are military please know that I salute you for your service in protecting our country. May those that have lost their lives never be forgotten. May those that have service on their hearts may they ask God for guidance.


I was born inside this country
That gives my dreams a chance to be
I respect all that it stands for
The comforting embrace it gives…to you and me

I will never take for granted,
I will gladly die for…

A nation that means freedom
I could ask for nothing more

America isn’t perfect
She’s had her problems in the past

But her intentions are for the better
He resolve will always last

Not everyone feels…the same exact way
Sometimes there are pessimists
With negative words to say

They don’t believe in America,
They’ve forgotten her history that has gotten us this far
Turning their back on faith, disregarding who they are

We must believe in this nation, we must trust its destiny
She is guided under God, she will never be held captive,
She will always be free

Author: J.R. Tijerina, USMC

There is a foundation that was created in honor of those that lost their lives that day, Seven Star Foundation.

Below is the video honoring the fallen soldiers that day, JR being one of them.

I grew up as knowing JR to be like a brother along side his own brother Peter & sister Lynn. His father was my father’s brother & our families were very close. We saw them every Sunday after Mass for lunch or to meet at my grandparents house. I see a lot of JR in my son Roman; from his infectious yet goofy laugh, to his squinty eyes & strong, lengthy body. My kids know JR, they never met him but I do my best to keep his memory alive through pictures & stories.

To all those that have fought past & present. To all those that have lost their lives or lost a loved one. I pray for your souls & for your families. May God always be with you.