In Memoriam

SSG Juan Luis Rivadeneira

Macon, GA

Home Award Program Recipient

Army Staff Sergeant Juan Luis Rivadeneira was born in Los Angeles in 1983, the first child of Luis and Yenni Rivadeneira, immigrants from Ecuador and Venezuela. At the age of three, Juan and his sister moved to Venezuela with their mom and went to school there until they moved back to the U.S. when Juan was 15. He enlisted in the Army in May of 2003 in Miami, Fla., and attended basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. Upon graduation he was assigned to an infantry unit at Fort Wainwright, Ark., where he deployed to his first combat tour in Iraq.

Shortly after his return from Iraq in November 2006, Juan received orders to U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfel, Germany where he met Melissa Raquel Bedoya Carchi. Juan then deployed to Afghanistan in June 2007, while the couple was dating, and the two were married shortly upon his return, in November 2008. In January 2009 they welcomed their son, Juan (Juanito) Alberto Rivadeneira.

In the spring of 2009, Staff Sergeant Rivadeneira received orders to Fort Campbell, KY. The young family moved into Fort Campbell housing and Juan was assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and Juan started training for his third combat deployment.

While off duty before his upcoming deployment, Juan made sure to visit with family in Florida, California and Venezuela. It was Melissa’s first time in the U.S. and Juan did not want her and his son to be alone without family or friends while he was in Afghanistan, so the family decided that Melissa and Juanito would return to Germany and stay with Melissa’s family during Juan’s deployment. The couple had also been hoping to save money to buy their first home when Juan returned.

On June 6, 2010, Staff Sergeant Rivadeneira deployed on his second tour in Afghanistan. Melissa would have her last conversation with Juan-one by Skype-exactly five months later, on November 6, 2010, while holding Juanito in her arms. Juan told her he was going on a mission; Melissa knows now that her husband was saying his final goodbye.

Late one night the following week, Melissa received a phone call from a family member in Florida, telling her that two uniformed Army Personnel were trying to locate her there. Melissa would receive the knock on the door at her residence in Germany the following day and the devastating news: Juan had been killed by an insurgent suicide bomber who detonated a vest bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan on November 13. Two months later, Melissa would receive Juan’s last letter dated November 6, 2010.

Staff Sergeant Juan L. Rivadeneira was laid to rest on November 27, 2010, with full military honors at South Florida VA National Cemetery. His awards and decorations include: the Silver Star (posthumously); Bronze Star (posthumously), Purple Heart (posthumously); Army Commendation Medal (fourth award); Army Achievement Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal (second award); National Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal (with two bronze stars); Iraq Campaign Medal (with two bronze stars); Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development (second award); Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon; NATO Defense Medal; Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Driver and Mechanic Badge, Army Valorous Unit Award, and Overseas Service Bar (third award).

Longing for the support and understanding that comes with a military community, Melissa chose to move from Germany to Fort Campbell, Ky., in April 2011. In June 2012, a financial counselor at the Survivor Outreach Services office there encouraged her to apply to Homes For Our Troops and its Home Award Program; she was later approved to receive a mortgage-free home in Macon, Ga., close to a military installation, where she feels a connection to Juan.

Melissa is currently volunteering and working at Fort Campbell’s travel office. She says she can’t wait to finally move into a permanent home, and looks forward to providing Juanito with some stability right before he starts Kindergarten. Having a home where Juanito can grow up safely was her and Juan’s lifelong dream; and she feels proud knowing that their dream has been realized and the legacy of Juan’s sacrifice to his country will be honored with this gift.