Miami-Dade Army soldier killed in Afghanistan
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Before he joined the U.S. Army, Amaru Aguilar’s great passion was tae kwon do.
He planned on earning a black belt before he separated from the military, then teaching at his own studio.
He also could have done something involving computers, said his wife, Cinthia Gaitan. After graduating from South Miami High School in 2003, he studied programming at ITT Tech, and was “a genius with computers.’’
He was also an adoring first-time father who couldn’t wait to teach his 9-month-old son, Andres, the Korean martial art form that made him strong and confident.
“His contract [with the Army] expires next year, but he wanted to reenlist and go to Korea,’’ his wife said.
What the Army described as small arms fire took that away from Sgt. Amaru Aguilar Borgen on May 13. A scout, he was on patrol near Kandahar, Afghanistan, when he was shot in the chest.
He bled to death in the arms of a comrade.
Born Nov. 17, 1984, in Managua, Nicaragua, Aguilar was 26, assigned to the 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based at Fort Riley, Kansas.
He became a U.S. citizen in 2008, during one of two deployments to Iraq.
“Within the Army he was known as a leader and took care of his soldiers by guiding them,’’ his wife said. “Ultimately, he wanted his soldiers to advance within the Army chain of command.’’
He organized Facebook care-package drives for his platoon.
“After his passing, his soldiers stated that they admired him for being a great NCO, a great leader, and being trustworthy,’’ his wife said.
Aguilar was due home for a two-week leave on June 8. His wife thought they’d spend part of the time on a cruise, relaxing with the baby.
Instead, the family — Gaitan and Andres, Aguilar’s mother, Martha Borgen, his sisters Melissa and Soli, his in-laws and friends — will watch as he is laid to rest that day at Arlington National Cemetery, with military honors.
“We think he would be proud to be there,’’ said Borgen, a single mother who brought her children to the United States in 1993 amid political turmoil in Nicaragua.
She and her kids “learned to work as a team,’’ Borgen said. “Whatever I told Amaru to do, he did, and he never complained.’’
Aguilar attended Seminole Elementary School and West Miami Middle School. He played soccer, video games and began studying tae kwon do.
He was always joking, said Erick Baltodano, a friend since elementary school.
A fan of professional wrestling, Aguilar particularly like Dwayne “The Rock’’ Johnson. Aguilar, Baltodano and another close friend, Victor Granizo, imitated their idol as kids, throwing each other around, hitting each other with serving trays, and “breaking stuff we tried to hide from our moms,’’ Baltodano said.
Borgen, 57, was surprised when her son announced he was joining the U.S. Army Reserve, because he’d never talked about it. But he had his mother’s full support, despite the possibility of going to war.
“The Army gives young people more tools to be more responsible and have direction,’’ Borgen said.
It gave Aguilar “a sense of pride, a sense of belonging, courage, valor, respect and stability in his life,’’ Gaitan added. “He was very proud of what he accomplished in his eight years in the Army.’’
They were together for seven of those years, having met in the Reserves. They worked kitchen duty together at Camp Parks, a California Reserve training base.
“He was always making me smile,’’ said Gaitan, who plans to complete her pre-law studies and become a paralegal.
Aguilar began active duty in 2006. On March 24, 2007, he and Gaitan married at the Miami-Dade Courthouse.
When Andres came along on Aug. 3, 2010, in Kansas, Aguilar was in the delivery room, and changed the baby’s first diaper.
Thrilled he had a son to carry on the family name, he left for Afghanistan on March 1.
His sister Soli, a clinical hypnotherapist, said Aguilar “was very patriotic. He felt he owed a debt to his country for the opportunities we had.’’ But the family was concerned when he reenlisted.
“We were lucky that he came back alive after two tours in Iraq,’’ she said. “We saw a change in my brother. It’s so hard for these guys to integrate into civilian life. But he said, ‘What do I do to support my family?’ ’’
Growing up without the father who lives in Nicaragua, Aguilar was determined to be the best father possible, his wife said.
Her son, she said, “will always know his dad was a hero who gave his life for his country.’’
She and Aguilar last spoke May 12, the day before he died. After her phone battery died, he left a message saying that he loved her.
Borgen last spoke to her son on Mother’s Day, May 8. She ended the conversation as she invariably did, by telling him: “Your mother is always with you. You are in God’s hands.’’
At 11 a.m. May 16, as she was taking out the trash, Gaitan watched a military vehicle pull up to her mother’s home in Kendall.
Having been in the military, she knew what that meant.
The officers asked for Aguilar’s Social Security number, to confirm the news she didn’t want to believe. The baby was sleeping inside.
“They told me not to call my mother-in-law at work,’’ she said.
Weeping, she called Baltodano.
“I fell to the floor,’’ he said. “We were like brothers.’’
The officers found Borgen at her office.
“What happened to Amaru?’’ she asked. She heard: “He passed away,’’ then it all became a blur.
Before he went to Afghanistan, Aguilar had told Baltodano and Granizo that things were “getting more serious’’ in combat zones, that “the odds are getting thinner,’’ and that he wanted his friends to look after his family if anything happened.
“We just laughed,’’ Baltodano said. “We said, ‘Come on, man, you already made it out of there twice.’’’
Gaitan is staying with her family, trying to absorb her new reality. She feels her husband’s presence all around her.
“I felt like he touched me,’’ she said. “He would want me to go on, but nothing will change him being the love of my life, and I loved him with all my heart.’’