In Memoriam

SPC Anthony Vargas

Carthage, TN

Home Award Program Recipient

Army Specialist Anthony Vargas was born on April 28, 1983 to Julio and Maria Vargas from the Bronx, N.Y., and was the youngest of four siblings. At 15, Anthony’s family relocated to Staten Island, where he attended Curtis High School and fell in love with Luisa Lane Montero. The two were married on July 29, 2001 and welcomed their first child, Nathaniel, the following Christmas Eve. Despite the challenges of being teenaged parents, the couple looked forward to spending the rest of their days together and growing their family.

In 2004, Anthony, Luisa and Nathaniel moved to Reading, Pa., where Anthony later joined the Army in 2008. By then they had another son, Lucas, and were expecting a daughter in February of 2009. Anthony attended basic training and Army Infantry Training at Fort Benning, Ga., and graduated just two weeks after their daughter Olivia was born; they were later reassigned to Fort Campbell, KY.

Specialist Vargas served as radio telephone operator assigned to the 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), in Fort Campbell, Ky., where he began training with his unit for their upcoming deployment. Weeks before his unit prepared to deploy to Afghanistan in August of 2010, Anthony filled his days visiting with his siblings and parents, making a point to spend individual time with everyone. The day before he deployed, he took in a family baseball game and posed for a family photo, one that Luisa suspected deep down would be their last. Once overseas, Anthony was able to call several times and “Skype’ with Luisa and the kids. On November 7, 2010, Anthony had called Luisa twice to remind her to buy him an iPod so he could listen to music; she would never hear from him again.

The next morning, Luisa was busy cleaning and vacating a rental home, preparing to move her family into base housing on Fort Campbell, when she heard a knock on the door. As she got up to greet the two men in uniform asking for her first and last name, her heart sank. Immediately she recognized one of the men as the chaplain, who she had met previously during volunteer training on the post for care team. Luisa went into shock over the news he delivered: While on patrol in Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan, an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated under the vehicle Anthony was driving, killing him instantly. The gunner, Anthony’s fellow comrade, died two days later in Germany.

Specialist Anthony Vargas was laid to rest on November 20, 2010, with full military honors at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, N.Y. His awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and Army Service Ribbon. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart.

The dedication that Anthony Vargas demonstrated while serving his country was equally matched by the love and devotion he had for his family, memories of which have helped his wife through her grief. Luisa recalls her husband Anthony as both a homebody and a handyman who treasured spending time with his three children, Nathaniel, Lucas, and Olivia. She loved that Anthony thought nothing of packing the diaper bag and taking off to the park with the kids-one diapered, the other still potty training-so Luisa could have a break. In his spare time, Anthony could be found washing and working under the hood of his car, or playing Xbox-usually with the kids. Family and friends were often entertained by Anthony’s “funny voices,” and his unique infectious laugh was enough to make anyone in the room laugh hard, too.

Just weeks before his deployment, Anthony taught Luisa to drive, eventually helping her to obtain her driver’s license. Luisa fondly reminisces about those excursions with Anthony and the kids in tote; she says she can still hear him yelling at her to slow down at turns.

Luisa and her children remained on base for a year after Anthony’s death, and then moved off post to nearby Clarksville, Tenn. Tennessee has become their home, largely due to the support they have received from the Fort Campbell Community, and notably, the Army’s Survivor Outreach Services (SOS). An SOS office coordinator also provided her with information about Homes for Our Troops and its Home Award Program. As a qualified recipient, Luisa and her three children have been awarded a mortgage-free home in nearby Carthage, Tenn.

Luisa says she is grateful to Homes for Our Troops for providing her family with such a beautiful gift that honors Anthony and his sacrifice. Above all, she knows that Anthony would be happy to know that Nathaniel, age 11, Lucas, 5 and Olivia 3, have been taken care of, and now have a permanent place to call “home.”

Moving into their mortgage-free home, Luisa says, will also “open doors” for her and allow her to go back to school for her degree, which she postponed at the time of Anthony’s death. Luisa is currently considering a career in social work, a vocation that she feels will help her give back by helping others.