Sgt. 1st Class Felipe Cruz
Sgt. 1st Class Felipe Cruz stands outside the Alamodome in San Antonio, site of the annual U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Cruz was chosen to mentor athletes competing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, held Jan. 5, 2013.

SAN ANTONIO (Jan. 8, 2013) -- Sgt. 1st Class Felipe Cruz has temporarily traded his job of mentoring Cadets in Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps program at San Diego State University with enthralling high school athletes with tales of his combat experience.

Cruz, who has been named has been named one of the Army's Soldier Heroes for 2013, attended the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The Army All-American Bowl is a nationally televised high school all-star football game held each January in San Antonio.

Cruz said he's honored to be selected among his fellow Soldiers.

"Soldier Hero is a very prestigious award," he said. "There are only 57 of us."

The Army Soldier Hero Program highlights the achievements of Soldiers who have demonstrated acts of heroism and valor in the face of extreme adversity during combat. Their role is to mentor athletes selected to play in the Army All-American Bowl.

Cruz received the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in Mosul, Iraq, in 2008. A roadside bomb exploded during a routine patrol as he sat in the tank commander's seat of a Bradley fighting vehicle. He also has been awarded three Bronze Stars, he said.

"Sergeant First Class Cruz is a humble person," said Lt. Col. John Turner, professor of military science at San Diego State. "That's just the type of person he is."

Turner added he appreciates the experience and professionalism Cruz brings to SDSU's ROTC program.

"He's our operations [noncommissioned officer], but he also works as our supply sergeant, which is really a full-time job," Turner said. "He takes a problem and finds a solution. Our supply room is now the best it's been in years.

"He's a valued member of our team who is resourceful and gets the job done with minimum supervision. Also, he's seen a lot of combat action, but is humble about that service, and shares his experiences with the Cadets. Those are all reasons why I selected him to be a Soldier Hero."

Just as Cruz mentors ROTC Cadets, he is mentoring the Army All-American Bowl's high school students.

"The Soldier Heroes are supposed to have two-way conversations with the students, but it's more like a one-sided conversation," Cruz said. "The students are so interested in hearing our stories that they really don't say much about themselves. Some of they are in awe that with all we've been through and seen, (and) that we're still here, talking and walking around."

He said the students are driven and have great plans for their lives.

"We are here to make sure they keep that drive and those plans," Cruz said. "We want to inspire them."

Page last updated Tue January 8th, 2013 at 00:00