MILLVILLE — Flags at City Hall will fly at half-staff Monday to honor a decorated local Army sergeant who died the day after Christmas.
Jose Joaquin Suarez, 24, was found unresponsive in his barracks at Fort Hood, Texas, according to a statement released Thursday by officials at the base.
Suarez, who graduated from Millville High School in 2006, was pronounced dead that same day at the base’s Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, the statement reads.
Circumstances surrounding Suarez’s death remain under investigation, officials said in the statement. A base spokesman said no additional information would be released regarding the incident.
Some members of Suarez’s family gathered Thursday afternoon at his father’s house on the 200 block of South Fourth Street.
A brother, Luis Suarez, of Millville, said the family is trying to cope with the shock of the death. They hope to get more information from the Army about what happened, he said.
Luis Suarez said he does not know whether his brother had any illnesses that could have led to his death. He said he had not seen his brother for a few years, because Suarez spent time overseas.
Family members are not ready to talk in detail about Suarez, Luis said.
Suarez was a pole vaulter for Millville High School’s track team during his sophomore, junior and senior years, track coach Bill Hoover said.
“He wasn’t a naturally born pole vaulter,” Hoover said.
Suarez was not as tall as most pole vaulters but worked hard to become pretty good at the sport, he said. Suarez also helped some of the younger students when they joined the track team, he said.
Hoover described Suarez as a “good, hard-working kid who really didn’t seem sure of what he was going to do after school.”
“The last time I spoke with him, he seemed pleased with the decision” to join the military, Hoover said.
Mayor Tim Shannon said he ordered flags at City Hall to fly at half-staff Monday, the day Suarez will be buried.
According to information provided by the Army, the Vineland-born Suarez entered active-duty service in 2006 as an information systems operator-analyst. Suarez was deployed in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
Army officials said Suarez received two commendation medals, three achievement medals, two good-conduct medals, the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, two overseas service ribbons, the NATO Medal and the Combat Action Badge.
Suarez’s obituary states he “loved computers, drawing and spending time with his family.”
Among his survivors are his wife, Robin, and two children, Jose and Jordon. They live in Texas.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at DeMarco-Luisi Funeral Home on Lincoln Avenue in Vineland. Friends may call at the funeral home from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday and 9 to 10 a.m. Monday.
Burial will be in Greenwood Memorial Park in Millville.
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