By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – Capt. Robert J. Yllescas had a gift for building a rapport with the Afghan people, said 1st Lt. Cain Meshkin, a fellow 1st Infantry Division officer.
He and Staff Sgt. Derrick E. Richardson were honored at a memorial ceremony Thursday at Fort Hood. Both were soldiers in the division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, which is deployed to Afghanistan.
Both fought and died for something most people take for granted, said 1st Lt. Matthew Barnes.
"I only hope I can meet more men like Robert and Derrick," he said.
Yllescas was serving his third deployment, his first to Afghanistan, when he died Dec. 1. The 31-year-old died while getting treatment at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., after receiving wounds from an Oct. 28 bomb blast in Combat Outpost Keating, Afghanistan, according to information from Fort Hood.
While attending the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Yllescas was a member of the ROTC program. He also enlisted in the Army Reserve at that time and was a specialist before being commissioned as an armor officer in 2001, according to information from the brigade.
After assignments and schools in Kentucky, Georgia and Kansas, Yllescas was assigned to Fort Hood in May 2007. He served as assistant operations officer for 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment before taking command of Blackfoot Troop.
The captain stood out with a magnetic personality and an ability to make people smile, said Maj. Gregory Stokes, the brigade's rear detachment commander. In 12 years of Army service, Yllescas is the best troop-level commander with whom Stokes has worked, he said.
Yllescas' awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Combat Action Badge, Ranger Tab and the Parachutist Badge.
He is survived by his wife, Dena; and two daughters, Julia and Eva.
Richardson was an outstanding example of a noncommissioned officer, Stokes said.
He enlisted in October 1992 as an infantryman. He deployed to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bosnia and Afghanistan, and served twice in Korea.
Richardson joined the brigade's 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment in November 2007 as a rifle squad leader, and deployed to Afghanistan in July 2008.
He died Nov. 17, in Evergreen, Ala., from injuries sustained after he was involved in a single-vehicle accident, according to information from Fort Hood. He died 13 days before his 37th birthday.
Richardson's awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal with Bronze Star device, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NATO-ISAF Medal, Afghan Campaign Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Medal and the Combat Infantry Badge.
He is survived by his wife, Jennifer L. Richardson; children, Breionka, Jeremy, Lateasa and Tyania; and his parents, James Dees and Williesten Dees.