FORT HOOD — “Staff Sgt. Maldonado.”
Silence echoed through the Memorial Chapel, as 1st Sgt. Chad McDaniels conducted roll call.
“Staff Sgt. Guadalupe Maldonado,” he said again. More silence. “Staff Sgt. Guadalupe Maldonado Jr.”
McDaniels stepped to the side of the soldier’s cross as the final roll call for the dead soldier ended and the 21-gun salute began outside.
Soldiers, family members and friends of 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, came together Wednesday morning to honor their fallen brother.
Maldonado died Feb. 1 at age 36 after a battle with colon cancer.
“He loved the Army,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Hedgeman, who served with Maldonado. “He loved his family, especially his children. We will always remember Lupe — proud soldier, strong NCO, family man.”
Hedgeman joked that Maldonado likely went to sleep each night singing cadence.
The two arrived to the “Black Knight” Battalion just a month apart and became good work friends.
“It’s easy to get to know him, because he’s a meticulous person. So when something was wrong, he would tell you. He was very outgoing and very disciplined,” Hedgeman said.
“I would follow him into combat any day of the week.”
Obvious through his work was Maldonado’s dedication to service and soldiers, said Lt. Col. Michael Kielpinski, rear detachment commander for 2nd Brigade.
Maldonado’s cancer diagnosis came just months before his unit was set to deploy to Afghanistan.
Kielpinski recalled when doctors told Maldonado of the cancer, he hadn’t yet grasped the severity and asked, “Can I still deploy?”
“Most important, in addition to his service, Lupe Maldonado loved his family, and he was dearly loved in return,” Kielpinski said.
“When he came into my office late last year, as we talked, knowing his own fate and as dire as that fate was, his only concern was for his children.”
Hedgeman recalled sitting with the father of three one night, helping Maldonado serialize his weapons collection for his two sons to one day enjoy.
“He loved his family, especially his children. We will always remember Lupe — proud soldier, strong NCO, family man,” Hedgeman said.
Brigade chaplain Capt. John Teitman closed the memorial service by asking people to grieve together, and lean on one another for support.
“This man was part of our lives — respected, beloved — and we hurt,” Teitman said. Hurt can leave people daring to ask challenging questions beginning with the words “if” and “why.”
“We recognize that there are ultimately no satisfying answers to these thoughts,” he said.
“Be comforted by hope and healing through each other.”