A local community is mourning the death of a soldier. 27-year-old Sgt. Ralph Mena of Hutchinson died Tuesday while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, leaving behind friends and family who say he'll be sorely missed.
"When he left he took a piece of a lot of people with him," said Mena's friend, Harvey Barker.
Those who knew and love Mena call him one of the best people they've ever known.
"Ralph was, he'd give you the shirt off his back," said Barker.
"He was loved by everybody that knew him. He was an amazing husband and father and soldier, and he died serving our country. And that's honorable," said Mena's widow, Amber Mena.
Mena died in Tikrit, Iraq from non-combat related injuries. His death left his friends and family shocked and devastated.
"I'm still standing here today kind of like it's unreal... still waiting to get that phone call to say they made a mistake," said Mena's friend Tim Robertson.
Those who knew him say they'll remember him for his magnetic personality, his sense of humor, and most of all, his laugh.
"His laugh, honestly I wish you guys could hear his laugh," said Robertson.
"It didn't matter what was going on in his life, he always smiled. And that was something you could always rely on was Ralph's smile," said Barker.
Those close to Mena call him a loyal friend, and a man dedicated to his country and his family.
"He was all about family and all about friends. And if you were one of Ralph's friends, essentially you were his family," said Barker.
Now the friends and family he left behind, say they'll always remember and respect the man they lovingly called "Ralphie."
"We'll always love him, there's no doubt about that," said Barker.
"I'll love him for always, and I know that everybody that he's ever touched their lives, they're going to miss him too," said Amber Mena.
Sgt. Mena just got married in February. He leaves behind a wife and two stepdaughters. He was set to return to the United States on leave in August.
May 5, 2010
A soldier from Hutchinson has died in Iraq, the Department of Defense announced today.
Sgt. Ralph Mena, 27, died yesterday in Tikrit of injuries he suffered from a non-combat related incident.
Mena was assigned to 72nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 7th Signal Brigade, 5th Signal Command, Mannheim, Germany.
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