Fort Bragg soldier killed when parachute malfunctioned remembered as 'outstanding paratrooper and friend'

Pfc. Jean Cruz De Leon died on Sept. 9, 2020, when his parachute malfunctioned while participating in an airborne training operation.


By STEVE DEVANE | The Fayetteville Observer | Published: September 11, 2020

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) A Fort Bragg paratrooper who was killed in a training accident on Wednesday was a dedicated soldier who contributed every day to his unit’s mission, his battalion commander said.

Pfc. Jean Cruz De Leon, 20, of Marrero, La., died when his parachute malfunctioned while participating in an airborne training operation, according to a statement released Thursday by the 82nd Airborne Division. The incident at Fort Stewart, Georgia, is under investigation, it said.

Cruz De Leon was an infantryman assigned to the division’s Company A, 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

Lt. Col. Matthew Molly, commander of the battalion, said Cruz De Leon believed in continually honing his craft.

“He was an outstanding paratrooper and friend whose actions assisted with the success of our unit,” Molly said. “We are ensuring every resource is available to his family and peers to help them during this difficult time.”

Cruz De Leon was assigned as a grenadier and radio transmitter operator for his company, according to the statement.

Capt. Charles McDonald, the company commander, said Cruz De Leon assimilated in the unit quickly and was eager to learn.

“He was a positive addition and influence to the team,” McDonald said.

Spc. Brandon Arnold, weapons squad team leader, said Cruz De Leon was a great soldier who was always raising the team’s morale by making other soldiers laugh when they were down.

“He consistently strived to better himself and was always there for his battle buddies,” Arnold said.

Second Lt. Michael Vecchio, platoon leader, said Cruz De Leon wanted to learn as much as he could when he became a radio transmitter operator.

“Whenever he was given a task, he would go out and find the answers just so he could learn his craft,” Vecchio said.

Cruz De Leon was a three-time volunteer who enlisted in the Army in May 2019 and reported to his first duty assignment at Fort Bragg in October, the statement said. His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Army Service Ribbon, and Army Parachutist Badge, it said.

Cruz De Leon is survived by his parents.

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