Aug 26, 2013 9:50 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

Soldier from Santa Maria killed in Afghanistan mourned

The war in Afghanistan has claimed yet another life from the Central Coast.

Specialist Kenneth Alvarez of Santa Maria was killed Friday when his unit was hit by an improvised explosive device, or IED.

He was 23-years old.

Alvarez is the 11th soldier from Santa Barbara County to lose his life during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and the fourth from Santa Maria.

"He brightened a lot of people's mornings with that smile," said Delta High School Advisor Tami Contreras.

As she flips through the 2009 Delta High School year book, she remembers a young man facing some pretty grown up challenges.

"He had to grow up fast being a young man and a parent while still in high school but he did it with grace," said Contreras.

And like the true soldier he was, Alvarez decided to keep fighting.

"His goal while he was here was to graduate and get himself going to be successful in life," said Contreras.

When he made the decision to dedicate his life to protecting our way of life, Tami remembers her apprehension.

"At the time I didn't want him going, because when they're here, they're my kids," said Contreras. "And I didn't want anything to happen to them."

But the decision to fight didn't only weigh on Tami's mind.

"He had worries about leaving his child behind and he knew it would be hard," said Contreras. "But he knew that was going to be the best way he felt he could provide for his family."

In 2011, Alvarez enlisted in the Army and became a Combat Engineer.
In March of this year, he was deployed to Afghanistan for the first time.

"He had an idea of what he wanted to do in life, he wanted to go out and serve and that's what he did," said Contreras. "And he paid the ultimate price and sacrificed his life serving his country."

The principal of Delta High School says Alvarez will be memorialized at the campus. However, they have not decided what they will do yet.

Soon enough, Alvarez's name will join the generations of Central Coast residents at the Abel Maldonado Youth Center memorial in Santa Maria, honoring all those who gave their lives fighting for ours.

A memorial service for Alvarez will be announced shortly.
He is survived by his wife and child.



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