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Remembering those we lost

Remembering those we lost

Spc. Benjamin Pleitez

POSTED May 22, 2013 3:28 p.m.

Capt. Raymond Dwayne Hill II, 39, was the first death Turlock experienced since the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it was a sobering reminder about the real costs of war. Hill was with the National Guard and was killed in action on Oct. 29, 2005, from a roadside bomb that exploded near his Humvee while on patrol in Baghdad. He left behind a wife and two young daughters. He enjoyed working on classic cars, and was active in 4-H both as a member and as a leader. Hill is buried at Lakewood Memorial Park. Since his passing, Hill's family restored his beloved 1965 Mustang to classic condition. His co-workers at Modesto Irrigation District donated a 25-foot flagpole in his memory to the Stanislaus County Agricultural Center. Almost three and a half months later, Turlock was shaken by a second death of a local soldier. Sgt. 1st Class Chad Gonsalves served with the Green Berets and was killed in action in Afghanistan on Feb. 13, 2006, by a roadside bomb. Gonsalves, 31, left behind a wife, a young son and twin infants. Gonsalves was remembered for his unwavering sense of duty and loyalty. He is interred at Turlock Memorial Park. Gonsalves' mother, Marsha Gonsalves, has been active with the Gold Star mothers in the area. Still mourning the loss of one soldier, the Turlock community was hit again with the passing of Army Ranger Dale Brehm, 23. Brehm was killed in Iraq on March 18, 2006, when his unit came under fire. Brehm left behind a wife. Brehm was an avid reader and in his memory his mother, Laura Williams, started a chapter of Operation Paperback that sends books to soldiers overseas. He was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. "I used to be one of those people who saw Memorial Day as a three-day weekend holiday and a chance to get out and barbecue," Williams said. "Now I have a whole new perspective on the day. It is a time to honor those that sacrificed their lives. Freedom isn't free." Turlock was once again reminded of the sacrifices paid by those in the armed services when 25-year-old Turlock resident Benjamin Pleitez was killed on July 27, 2012, while serving as a combat medic with the California National Guard in Afghanistan.
Among his family and friends, Pleitez will be remembered as a man of steadfast character with an easy laugh, a quick smile, and a bit of a daredevil streak.
The need to challenge himself was what inspired Pleitez to join the military. He enlisted with the California Army National Guard on Sept. 26, 2006 as a heavy vehicle driver. His enlistment ended on Oct. 3, 2007, but Pleitez still felt that call to duty, so on Dec. 1, 2009, he reenlisted in the California Army National Guard as a health care specialist.
Pleitez' awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal (w/Bronze Service Star), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Bar, NATO Medal, and California Enlisted Trainer's Excellence Ribbon.
While serving in Afghanistan, Pleitez was struck by the lack of education available to the populace and got involved with the Central Asia Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes literacy and education, especially among girls, in Central Asia communities.
"He had a conversation with our mother about how no matter what they did in Afghanistan the people would still be reliant on the Taliban if they didn't get educated," said his brother Jon Pleitez. "He felt a real difference could be made if the people could be educated."




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