Memorial Day is a holiday remembering the men and women who died while serving this country’s armed forces. This Memorial Day we wish to honor Brother Gary J. Vasquez (Gamma Chapter) who was killed in action on September 29, 2008 while serving in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
According to the Department of Defense, Sgt 1st Class Gary Vasquez died due to wounds sustained when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device (IED) during combat reconnaissance patrol. Also killed were 29 year old Capt. Richard Cliff Jr. of South Carolina and 32 year old Sgt. 1st Class Jamie Nichols of West Virginia.
Brother Gary’s Military Career
Brother Gary was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in May 2008 as a member of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force. He served with Company B, 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne). This was his third deployment in support of the Global War on Terror and third deployment to Afghanistan.
His awards and decorations include three Bronze Star Medals, Purple Heart Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, two Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals, two Army Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Non-commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Ranger Tab and the Special Forces Tab.
He is survived by his wife Sarah, his mother Margaret DuHasek, his brother Barry DuHasek, and his sister Keely Vasquez.
Life as a Sigma Lambda Beta Man
Brother Gary “Medio” Vasquez joined Sigma Lambda Beta at Illinois State University (Gamma Chapter) on November 20, 1993. Gary majored in Drama and he graduated from Illinois State in 1996. Longtime chapter advisor Sue Payne described Gary as “passionate about theater, articulate when he was speaking, and had a great smile.”
We asked Alex Olivares, Gary’s “Dean of Pledges” (which was the term we used at the time), to share a few thoughts on his chapter brother.
I first met Gary “Medio” Vasquez at an informational meeting for the Fraternity in 1993 on the campus of Illinois State Univ. I had just become the new dean of pledges for the fraternity and held the responsibility of educating the future brotherhood. I along with the other brothers interviewed Gary and decided that we were going to extend an invitation for them to join our “Glorious” chapter. As soon as I met Gary I knew he was something special.
In our fraternity we all chose [line names] for ourselves…Gary chose “Medio” because he was half Mexican and half Caucasian. Gary was a pledge who took all of his tasks in stride. He never complained, instead he would just do what he needed to do and get it done. I promoted Gary to Captain of his ship, but later demoted him (not sure why I did, but pretty sure it was a power trip). Gary took the demotion in stride, but always reminded me of how dumb I was for it. In his own way, he would remind me of my stupidity and include reasons why he would have done it better. After Gary and his other line brothers crossed over into the brotherhood, I had the distinction of becoming his roommate. He along with our brother (Esau Schwarz) had grown tired of the dorms and decided to find an apartment off campus. Who knew that this would be the time of our lives? We moved into this duplex townhome with a deck that soon became the hang out for the rest of the brothers, it was the unofficial purple and white apartment.
Gary was working on his degree in drama and was always working on some new character or some type of costume. Since he was always working on characters it was hard for us to take him seriously. I remember not really knowing if he was mad or if he just joking around. I remember his new identity after having spent a summer abroad in Mexico. He would speak his broken Spanish full of Mexican slang and say the craziest of things. I remember him being in a play about Native Americans and blasting drums and chants while we were trying to listen to newest house music beats. I so wanted to tear apart his CD, I didn’t mind the first 30 times, but the next 50 drove me nuts. We had a great time, we got on each other’s nerves, we helped each other out and we became a family. Upon his graduation, we lost touch, but those brothers that still talked to Gary would tell me of where he was and what he was up to.
What I remember most of living with Gary was how he remembered his late father’s (Frank Vasquez) military service. He was an Army Lieutenant Colonel whom had served in Vietnam. He admired his father’s service and walked around with his father’s dog tags. It was no surprise to me when I found out that Gary had joined the Army in 2000. I was also not surprised to find out what he had accomplished while in the military. After basic and advanced individual training at Fort Knox, Ky., he was assigned to Troop. A, 1st Battalion 17th Cavalry Regiment (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, N.C. He began the Special Forces Qualification Course in 2002 and earned the coveted “Green Beret” in 2004, after which he was assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, N.C., as a Special Forces Engineer Sergeant….he made things go “boom” as he put it.
Gary and I reconnected via social media (at the time Myspace) and I was in awe when I saw pictures of Gary at work. He still had the many faces I remembered, the smile, the look of being tired and the desire of being more. He had the look of a Special Forces soldier, his Grizzly Adams beard and the camo, but it was still our Brother Medio.
He was an incredible person. He didn’t take the easy road. He didn’t complain about the task at hand, but rather accepted the challenges and dealt with them head on. He was honest and fair, he was quiet and rambunctious, he was Medio to a lot of things, but he was so much more. He was our brother, he was our friend, ad he was family.