CALDWELL – We're beginning to get a better picture of the Caldwell soldier who died just three days ago while fighting in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.
The family of Octavio Herrera says that he had a smile that would light up any room. But he was more than that. Those who knew him say he was a man others should emulate.
The 26-year-old was in the middle of his third deployment to Afghanistan when enemy forces attacked his unit.
The day was Sunday, August 11. Herrera and two other soldiers with the101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky lost their lives that day.
"He was serving other people, serving his country and that's pretty special," said Anita Wilson, Herrera's former school counselor.
Wilson first met Herrera when he was in the 8th grade at Jefferson Junior High School in Caldwell. She was his school counselor that year and every year until he graduated from Caldwell High School, finishing in the top 15 percent of his class.
"He took difficult classes, rigorous classes, AP,” said Wilson. “I looked at his transcript yesterday he took the most difficult classes that we offer and did very well, challenged himself, was really successful. He graduated with honors in 2005, so that's something that his family can be really proud of.”
Herrera's life was molded by character building jobs. His former employer at Orphan Annie's says he used to stand here and wash dishes, adding he was an excellent employee and an even better young man.
He also spent time at Crookham Seed Company working during the summer in the corn fields. His former boss told us his work ethic was second to none and that he was the type of employee that any employer would want to be a part of their company.
After some college in Arizona and at Boise State, he decided to join the Army in 2007.
Herrera served his country honorably, because for him, it was more than a job, it was his calling.
"I just hope that they're really proud of the things he accomplished in his short life. He was an inspiration. He should be an inspiration to our students and to our community," said Wilson.
Herrera is the third former student at Caldwell High School to die in combat since the first Gulf War.
The school is planning to honor those former students this coming school year on Veterans Day.
He will also be honored Friday night at the Caldwell Night Rodeo.
At this point we're still waiting for details on Herrera's honorable transfer, as well as details on his funeral. We're expecting to get that information in the coming days.