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From left are pictures of fallen 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment soldiers Staff Sgt. Joseph Gamboa, Cpl. Steven Candelo and Cpl. Joshua Molina at the front of the Vilseck Chapel after a memorial service Wednesday.
From left are pictures of fallen 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment soldiers Staff Sgt. Joseph Gamboa, Cpl. Steven Candelo and Cpl. Joshua Molina at the front of the Vilseck Chapel after a memorial service Wednesday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

VILSECK, Germany — Three 1st Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment soldiers killed in action in Baghdad last week were remembered Wednesday at a memorial ceremony.

Lt. Col. Thomas Rickard, 2nd Cav Rear Detachment commander, said the soldiers — Staff Sgt. Joseph Gamboa, Cpl. Steven Candelo and Cpl. Joshua Molina — took action that directly stabilized Iraq and protected fellow soldiers. All were killed in battles with Shiite criminal groups that broke away from Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army last week and attacked coalition forces and civilians in Baghdad, he said.

“They (the criminal groups) quickly met stout resistance from Iraqi security forces and the War Eagles (1st Squadron) … Iraqi forces working with our War Eagle troops held their ground and beat the enemy,” Rickard said.

The death of 34-year-old Gamboa, a native of Guam, has had a big impact on the Vilseck and Grafenwöhr communities, where four of his five children — Ashton, Austin, Avery, Krystianna and Isabella — attend school.

Many from Vilseck’s Guam community attended the memorial, including Staff Sgt. Donny Lujan, 28.

Lujan said personnel from Guam serving in Bavaria are a close-knit group, and the group is struggling to deal with the loss.

“We get together a lot and have barbecues and play cards, and Joe was always around. His family was very friendly, welcoming and open. They were happy kids, always out playing and running around,” he said.

The family is in Guam for Gamboa’s funeral. His wife, Michelle, will bring the children back to Vilseck after her husband’s funeral so they can finish the school year, he said.

Comrades remembered Molina, 20, as an expert saw-gunner and gifted comedian who could always get his audience to smile, Capt. Emmanuel Sioson, 1st Squadron’s rear detachment commander, said.

“Josh was a great story teller. His stories would take five to 10 minutes to reach a punch line,” he said.

Molina is survived by his parents, Josue and Maria Molina of Houston, Texas.

“I spoke with Josh’s family. Whenever he retuned home he’d tell stories about how great his friends were here and how great his unit was,” Sioson said.

Candelo, also 20, was raised by his grandmother and dreamed of a life of service like his grandfather, who served in the Colombian Navy, he said.

“He wanted to join the Army and later become a police officer,” he said.

Candelo could find a Colombian restaurant wherever he was stationed and even found one in Germany, he said.

Candelo, who was born in Houston, Texas, is survived by his parents, Alvaro Candelo and Julia Martinez.

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