Ex-POW a 'big, loving teddy bear'
MISSION, Texas (CNN) -- Edgar Hernandez was just months from concluding his military career when he was swept into war. On March 23, enemy forces ambushed his U.S. Army maintenance company in Iraq.
Afterwards, Hernandez was one of 12 members from the Fort Bliss, Texas-based 507th Maintenance Company to be listed as captured, killed or determined missing.
Three weeks later, Hernandez was one of seven missing U.S. troops freed by advancing U.S. Marines north of Baghdad.
His young brother, 18-year-old Joel Hernandez, could hardly believe the news.
"Man, I'm just so happy. I just knew this was going to happen," Joel Hernandez said. "Last night I couldn't sleep. I just had this feeling, you know."
Edgar 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.
He had steered his younger brother away from serving in the U.S. armed forces.
"The main reason he didn't want me to go join the military is in case we go to war," Joel Hernandez told the Brownsville Herald in an earlier interview.
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 Edgar Hernandez hoped to settle in El Paso, Texas, secure a job with the border patrol and get married, according to the Brownsville Herald's Web site.
Joel Hernandez 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.
The family's pastor in Alton, Texas, recounted the soldier's unwavering belief in God to reporters from the El Paso Times.
At Fort Bliss, 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."