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Former Brandon resident killed in Iraq

Roman-Cruz, 33, died from injuries suffered after a bomb detonated near his Humvee.

By SAUNDRA AMRHEIN, Times Staff Writer
Published November 18, 2005

Alexis Roman-Cruz was always taking care of other people.

The former Brandon resident was a doting father and son, a best friend to his wife. When Roman-Cruz, a construction worker, decided to join the military, he told his wife he wanted a better job with benefits to care for her and their two children.

She disagreed. But she understood.

Army Spc. Roman-Cruz, 33, died in Balad, Iraq, Wednesday from injuries suffered the day before after a bomb detonated near his Humvee. Three other soldiers died as well.

The four were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, out of Fort Campbell, Ky.

Fort Campbell lost nine soldiers in the span of a week in late October and early November. With the latest casualties, 83 soldiers based at Fort Campbell have died in the Iraq war.

"He was very caring with everybody," said Roman-Cruz's wife, Johan Roman, 35, speaking from their home in Clarksville, Tenn.

Roman-Cruz lived with his wife and children in Brandon, near Kingswood Elementary School, for a year between 2002 and 2003 before moving to Tennessee, she said.

Before then, they were in Puerto Rico, where they were both born and raised in the same town. They didn't meet until after high school. Her cousin's husband introduced them and they married 13 years ago, she said.

The two had a beautiful marriage, she said. They had a son, now 11, and a daughter, now 7.

He worked in construction both in Puerto Rico and when they moved to Florida. He joined the military to secure a better-paying job with benefits to improve their economic standing.

"He was a fighter, a very positive person," she said. "He was a great father."

With his salary from the military, they were able to buy a house and car, she said.

Initially Roman-Cruz believed in the war in Iraq, but sometimes he questioned its purpose, his wife said.

Johan Roman didn't want her husband to join the military and the war. "But I'm someone who supported him in everything," she said.

He was very grateful for what military life was able to give him, she said.

"Although he sacrificed for it," she added.

The other three soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division killed in the same attack were Staff Sgt. James E. Estep, 26, of Leesburg, Fla.; Spc. Matthew J. Holley, 21, of San Diego, Calif.; Pfc. Travis J. Grigg, 24, of Inola, Okla.

Roman-Cruz died Wednesday in Balad, Iraq. The other three died Tuesday near Taji.

The four deaths came two days before a soldier from the 3rd Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division died Thursday in a vehicle accident south of an oil refinery in Bayji.

Units from the post are continuing to deploy to Iraq for a yearlong tour.

Soldiers from the 101st will help train Iraqi military units and conduct security operations leading up to the country's parliamentary elections on Dec. 15.

In all, nearly 20,000 soldiers from the 101st will deploy to Iraq. This is the third deployment of the 101st since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Times researcher Cathy Wos and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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