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UPDATED: Acosta: ‘Our son was a hero’

Family to recognize memory of Pfc. Rudy A. Acosta with candlelight vigil, crosstown procession

Posted: March 24, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 24, 2011 12:00 p.m.

Pfc. Rudy A. Acosta.

 

The inspiration and courage that came to define local fallen soldier Rudy A. Acosta will be formally recognized next week, when he will be honored posthumously with both the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals, his father said Wednesday.

Dante Acosta, describing himself as a proud yet “heartbroken” father, said his son inspired all those around him — his family, his friends and his “battle buddies.”

”He was a wonderful young man who came back a man,” he said Wednesday on the phone from the family’s home in Canyon Country.

Acosta, a combat medic who dreamed of becoming a doctor, died Saturday in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Acosta and Cpl. Donald R. Mickler Jr., 29, of Ohio, were allegedly shot with small-arms fire by an individual from a military security group, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Department of Defense. The incident is under investigation.

Services, honors
Acosta served with the 4th Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, based in Vilseck, Germany. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of specialist, according to the military.

His parents, Dante and Carolyn Acosta, expect to fly to Germany in the near future for a special ceremony honoring their son.

Here, at home, a candlelight prayer vigil is scheduled for 6 p.m. tonight at the Santa Clarita Baptist Church.

On March 31, the Purple Heart and Bronze Star will be presented in the same church during a funeral service “with full military honors,” Acosta said.

Immediately following the service, a funeral procession under full military escort will wind its way through the Santa Clarita Valley, past many of the young man’s favorite places, he said.

The Purple Heart is a U.S. military decoration awarded to members of the armed forces who have been wounded in action. The Bronze Star is awarded either for heroism or for meritorious achievement in ground combat.

Military motorcade
Acosta asked that those wishing to show their respect line the streets of the procession to hold American flags.

From Santa Clarita Baptist Church on Luther, the military motorcade is expected to proceed west along Soledad Canyon Road, passing the Santa Clarita Aquatic Center where Acosta trained for the Alcatraz Swim and near the Mountasia Family Fun Center.

The motorcade is scheduled to turn left at McBean Parkway and travel south past Westfield Valencia Town Center, where Acosta met friends; past Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital where he was born.

The procession will turn left on Orchard Village Road and head south to Lyons Avenue, near the preschool Acosta once attended.

The motorcade will then travel right on Railroad Avenue and left on Newhall Avenue to Sierra Highway, then right to the entrance of Eternal Valley Memorial Park & Mortuary.

“He is a child of this community,” his father said. “Born and raised and educated here. He never left the community.”

Religious soldier
“Our son was a hero to our country and also a wonderful Christian young man,” Acosta said. “He did ask our pastor to pray for the Afghan people.”

After nine months of deployment to combat service in Afghanistan, Acosta was assigned to a station “behind the wire” away from the direct combat zone, he added.

“After nine months, he was no longer in combat and he told me, ‘Dad, please pray for my friends in the platoon,’ As a medic, he treated many of them and was going into some pretty rough areas. He saved lives.”

Acosta said he saved his son’s last phone message home.

Rudy Acosta’s father paused for a moment while quoting his son’s last words to them:

“He said ‘I think about you and everybody at home. I love you all very much, and I will be home soon.’”

Acosta graduated from Santa Clarita Christian School in 2009, completed Army basic training that summer and was deployed to Afghanistan on June 10. He served as a health care specialist.

Acosta planned to enroll in medical school after he completed his service.

But, while he served as a medic, he also served as an inspiration to all those around him, his father said.

“The son of one of his military buddies called him a role model,” Acosta said, pausing again. “He called him an inspiration.”

Tonight’s vigil
The prayer vigil at Santa Clarita Baptist Church, 27249 Luther Drive, Canyon Country 91351, is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Parking is available at the adjacent shopping plaza and neighboring Lutheran Church. Guests are asked to begin arriving at 5:30 p.m. in order for the prayer vigil to begin on time.

In lieu of flowers, the Acosta family requests that contributions be made to the Rudy A. Acosta Memorial Fund at the church.

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