Soldier flying home to surprise family in Texas dies en route
By NICOLE C. BRAMBILA | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas | Published: September 15, 2014
LUBBOCK, Texas (MCT) — Staff Sgt. Virginia Caballero died unexpectedly on a commercial flight home from Kuwait, family members said Monday.
Rodrigo Cantu, Caballero’s cousin, said she was flying home earlier than expected last week when during the flight she felt ill and went to the bathroom. A military companion traveling with Caballero went to the bathroom to check on her when she did not return and found her unconscious, Cantu said.
“They made an emergency landing, went to the hospital and got a faint pulse,” Cantu said.
Cantu said a lot of the details are sketchy, but Caballero’s family in Abernathy was officially notified about her death on Saturday.
Caballero was 41.
Cantu said it is thought that Caballero suffered from a blood clot, which was exacerbated with the altitude on the flight that would be her final trip home.
“None of the family knew she was on her way home,” said Martina Flores Herrera, a cousin. “She was trying to surprise us.”
Caballero was expected to return in October, family members said.
According to Caballero’s Army-only Facebook profile, she had been overseas for about eight months.
Caballero received the Purple Heart in 2003 after her unit was ambushed in Mosul, Iraq, according to Avalanche-Journal archives. Caballero was hit in the hip. Upon her homecoming, then-Abernathy Mayor Hoppy Toler proclaimed Nov. 11 “Virginia Caballero Day” in her honor.
Friends learned of Caballero’s death from Facebook.
Danny Ortiz, a longtime family friend, said Caballero had an infectious smile and a welcoming personality; someone with whom it was easy to talk.
“It’s just so hard to believe that she’s gone,” said Ortiz, who although couple years older attended Abernathy High School with Caballero.
“All those tours that she experienced and for her to succumb like this, it’s so tragic. It makes me believe even more that we’re on borrowed time and when God calls you home, he calls you home.
“And, it’s usually the good ones.”
Lt. Col. Alayne P. Conway, an Army spokeswoman, could not on Monday confirm how Caballero died. The Lubbock reserve unit with which Caballero has served did not returned multiple phone calls.
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