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Texas POW deeply spiritual, friends say

POW Edgar Hernandez
POW Edgar Hernandez

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(CNN) -- Edgar Hernandez, just months from concluding his military career, steered his younger brother away from serving Uncle Sam.

"The main reason he didn't want me to go join the military is in case we go to war," 18-year-old Joel Hernandez told the Brownsville Herald.

Sunday, the danger Edgar Hernandez hoped to shield his brother from befell him when Iraqis ambushed the 507th Maintenance Company from Fort Bliss, Texas, and Hernandez became one of 12 from the group to be captured, killed or determined missing.

Hernandez, 21, joined the military after high school three years ago and was serving as a supply truck driver, according to the Arizona Daily Star's Web site.

Edgar Hernandez, who appeared bruised and battered in the video of him after his capture, had a few months left in the service and "was looking forward to coming home and making his career."

Relatives said he hoped to leave military service, settle in El Paso, Texas, secure a job with the border patrol and get married, according to the Brownsville Herald's Web site.

Joel described his brother to the Herald as a person who never started a fight, but stood ready to defend a friend. His reputation among family members was as a clumsy guy with an infectious sense of humor who enjoyed jogging and playing basketball with his friends.

Joel told the Herald that in a recent letter to the family, Edgar requested prayer and said he was eager to come home to work on his 1979 Camaro.

The family's pastor in Alton, Texas, recounted the soldier's unwavering belief in God to reporters from the El Paso Times. Friends and relatives said Hernandez is likely offering religious comfort to other prisoners, the newspaper's Web site stated.

At Fort Bliss, Edgar Hernandez joined the Chaparral Apostolic Church, and befriended the pastor's daughter Diana Uribe, the El Paso Times reported.

"He's like a big, loving teddy bear who is always thinking about others, not himself," Uribe, 19, told the newspaper. "I know him, and I'm sure he's in constant prayer."

Maria de la Luz Hernandez said she accepted her son's decision to join the military, but she did not support it. "He's a very noble man," she told the El Paso Times. 'When he first told me he wanted to join the Army, I was against it. But I knew that's what he wanted. He wanted to serve his country."


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