Today the nation mourns the loss of a dedicated Army soldier. However, José Leal also mourns the loss of a beloved son taken too soon.
“My son was always shy when he was little and growing up. Then he started hanging around with my nephews and nieces and then he was having fun and always smiling,” Leal tells News 3’s Mikhaela Singleton. “When I was talking to him [on Friday], ‘Dad I’m here, I’m serving my country.’ I said I’m proud of you, double as you are. It’s very sad that my son is gone.”
Leal spoke to his son, 20-year-old Corporal Joseph Maciel of South Gate, California, less than 24 hours before a reported “insider attack” took his life and injured two other service members at a military facility in Tarin Kowt, a town in the Uruzgan province of Afghanistan.
A press release confirms Cpl. Maciel was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Benning. He was among only 800 carefully selected soldiers to serve the newly formed 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade.
The brigade was activated and deployed in February to advise and build Afghani forces in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, a counterterrorism mission against extremist groups like Al Qaeda and Afghani ISIS forces.
“My son, he was training Afghanistan soldiers and police when [the attack] happened,” Leal explains. “That is terrifying to me. These good soldiers are going there to help people and there’s still so much evil. People who don’t want to see their country change or be free.”
Leal adds his heart is heavy with worries on how his son will come home.
“When they called me, they told me my son gave his life to protect the other soldiers. What bothers me in my heart is, I don’t know if they’re going to bring back his body or just a little box,” he says.
However, he says he also remains full of pride at Joseph’s dedication to his country.
“I’m very proud. My heart is broken, but I know he was doing the right thing.”
A spokesperson with the 3rd Infantry Division responded to News 3 requests for comment with condolences on behalf of the Army and all Joseph’s fellow soldiers.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Corporal Maciel’s family and friends. Losing a soldier and losing a member of the team is never an easy emotion to deal with. The best way to honor Corporal Maciel is to continue the mission,” says Maj. Tony Hoefler.
He adds the exact circumstances surrounding the insider attack remain under investigation.