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EDINBURG — Staff Sgt. Estevan Altamirano’s fellow soldiers called him “Speedy” because he often rushed back to the base from home.
The nickname says something about Altamirano’s dedication to his unit and family because he tried to spend as much time as possible with both, said Brig. Gen. Stephen B. Leisenring, who spoke at Altamirano’s funeral Wednesday. The 30-year-old Edcouch native and McAllen resident died in Iraq Sept. 18 from injuries sustained from a weapon malfunction.
“While I may not have known him personally, I can guarantee having been a private that there are two things behind that (nickname),” Leisenring said. “One was the dedication to get to his unit … but also I can understand by meeting all of you, he was trying to squeeze every last minute he could out of home.”
Altamirano, who was stationed out of Fort Hood, served 44 months in combat. He was serving his fourth tour of duty in Tikrit, Iraq, with the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division when he died.
Even though he spent months away from his family, Altamirano did not complain when one of his superiors told him that his leave to come home from Iraq would be postponed, Leisenring said.
“He was a selfless soldier,” Leisenring said.
Altamirano’s immediate and extended family attended the funeral along with friends, soldiers, teachers and veterans. Altamirano had a daughter, Leandra, and two stepdaughters Kayla and Anaya, with his wife, Pamela. He also had two sons, Justin and Dominic, from his first marriage.
Altamirano’s stepdaughter Kayla Martinez, 16, presented a slideshow of family photos.
“I love him and he was a wonderful man,” she said, her voice wavering. “And there is no one who will ever be like him.”
Altamirano’s parents, siblings, cousins and other relatives wore shirts with the staff sergeant’s photo and name and the words “We (heart symbol) our fallen hero” on the front and “Fallen but not forgotten” on the back.
Pamela Altamirano wept during the funeral at Abundant Grace Community Church in Edinburg and the ceremony at the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery in Mission.
Edinburg and Mission firefighters raised American flags on their ladder trucks at both locations, and various Valley police departments and veterans organizations escorted the hearse and family to the cemetery.
At the cemetery, a soldier announced that Estevan Altamirano was promoted from sergeant to staff sergeant posthumously. Army personnel also presented U.S. flags to the staff sergeant’s family.
During his 11 1/2-year Army career, Altamirano received several honors including Meritorious Service Medal, four Army Commendation Medals, four Army Achievement Medals and the Valorous Unit Award, according to a news release from Fort Hood.