Salinas soldier killed in Afghanistan


He was a devoted son and soldier serving in Operation Enduring Freedom. Earlier on Monday at a memorial in Salinas there was a ceremony which included the reading of 78 Monterey County soldiers killed in Vietnam and 7 killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, there is one more.

Photos on Galarza's Facebook page show his radiant smile and as his friends will tell you, he proudly served his country.

"Vilmar was very proud of serving his country. He was doing what he loved," said Florencio Gonzalez, a friend.

Galarza graduated from Salinas's Everett Alvarez High School in 2008. The 21-year-old soldier died on Saturday. The Department of Defense says enemy forces attacked Galarza's unit with an IED in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan. His remains arrived at Dover Air Force Base.

The mayor of Salinas heard about the tragedy just after he attended an annual Memorial Day service on Monday. Galarza's death marks the eighth service member from Monterey County to have died in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"The purpose of the ceremony is to remind us for it to be that living, that real, that present is a particularly painful reminder," said Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue.

Galarza's parents live in a Salinas apartment where the home's door and windows express their pride with Army stickers that read "Proud parent of a soldier" and "My son is in the U.S. Army." Inside their home, their walls are covered with photos and the scholastic achievements of their children. There a plaques for perfect attendance for Galarza and his sister who also serves in the military.

On Monday the family was out of town to receive the body of their eldest child.

"His family is having a hard time believing that he's gone. He was a very loved son," said Gonzalez.

A defense spokesperson said they weren't prepared to release any additional information about Galarza's service, such as when he entered the military or if any of his fellow soldiers were killed or injured in the attack.

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