By Jennifer ClampetMay 3, 2012
The call for medic went out. But in the buzz of flying bullets and wails of rocket-propelled grenades, the medic never came.
Salvatore Giunta, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, said it was the first time Spc. Hugo V. Mendoza failed to respond to the call for help.
Mendoza, an airborne medic serving with the 1st platoon, Battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry Brigade, was killed in action Oct. 25, 2007, while on a battalion-wide operation in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.
Mortally wounded attempting to save a comrade being dragged away by Taliban forces, Hugo Mendoza was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his actions.
"(Mendoza) like other medics responded to the call for 'Doc' that day without regard for his own personal safety," said Col. Bruce Adams, deputy commander for William Beaumont Army Medical Center Clinical Services, during the April 12 memorial naming ceremony of the SPC Hugo V. Mendoza Soldier Family Care Center.
"That (action) exemplifies the sacred bond between all who wear the uniform and those first responders trained to treat them like medics, corpsmen and combat lifesavers."
Mendoza's solemn portrait -- painted by William Beaumont Army Medical Center civilian employee Mark Yerrington -- hangs in the foyer of the Mendoza Soldier Family Care Center.
Beside the image is a plaque detailing the life of Hugo Mendoza as a son, a Soldier, a medic and a hero?
"It's a great honor that my brother's legacy will be carried on," said Carlos Mendoza Jr., older brother of Mendoza.
"It is an honor, but we still wish this would not be happening, because it means our brother is gone."
Born in Harbor City, Calif., Mendoza spent much of his childhood in El Paso attending Hanks High School before moving to Arizona. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in May 2005.
"He wanted to be a fireman," said Carlos Mendoza, giving insight into Hugo's enlistment as an Army medic -- a means for education. Joining the military in his late 20s, many Soldiers viewed Hugo Mendoza as a father figure, Carlos said.
Giunta -- who served with Hugo Mendoza and who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for actions taken during the same attack on Oct. 25, 2007 -- remembered the medic as "an amazing man."
First meeting Hugo in Vicenza, Italy, Giunta remembered the medic sitting on bare bed springs and remarking that he planned to check everyone's feet after a long road march.
"Hadn't he also just finished the road march?" Giunta had asked the eager medic. Giving an affirmative answer, Mendoza jumped up and tended to his duties aiding his comrades.
"That night (in Afghanistan) … the first thing that I can remember yelling was 'medic.' And I knew that Hugo would come. (But) he didn't," Giunta said.
Helping others was just something that Mendoza did. It was something that all the members of the 1st platoon did, Giunta said.
"Every member of (my brother's) unit tried to give his life to save a comrade that night," Carlos Mendoza said. "Every member of the military who wears a uniform, they're a hero every day."
Adams noted Spc. Hugo Mendoza's valor as a testament to the Warrior Ethos of "never leaving a fallen comrade and displaying commitment to Army medicine to save lives, foster healthy and resilient people and to inspire trust."
Unveiling the monument erected just outside the front doors of the Mendoza Soldier Family Care Center, the Mendoza family gathered around the curved wall to view the legacy of their fallen Soldier.
The $42 million Mendoza Soldier Family Care Center is the largest and most technologically advanced ambulatory health center in the military.
The 145,000-square-foot, two-story building sits on 14 acres along SSG Sims Street on East Bliss. Completed in September 2010, the clinic provides primary care, pediatrics, laboratory, radiology, pharmacy, physical therapy and behavioral health services for more than 37,000 active duty service members and family members.
Inside the center, floor-to-ceiling windows showered the interior with sunlight -- a reminder to Mendoza family members and friends of the infectious smile of their Soldier.
"It was the most painful thing I've ever heard to this day," said Carlos Mendoza of the death of his brother.
With a watchful eye on the world, Carlos Mendoza said he pays more attention to those bumper stickers for service members.
Reciting one, he said, "Some gave some. Some gave all."
"My brother gave all," Carlos Mendoza said.