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      4 Exclusive: Fallen soldier's fianc calls Mercedes native a hero

      Two people very much in love have been torn apart by war.

      "They just told me about a bomb explosion that went off as they were driving in an armored vehicle," Ashley Marie Vasquez said.

      Ashley never imagined her fianc, Army Specialist Kevin Cardoza of Mercedes, would be killed overseas.

      "The last thing he told me was he can't [inaudible] because he was going to go on a job and that he loves me very much and that he was going to take care," she said during a phone interview with Action 4 News from her home in El Paso.

      Her phone conversation last Thursday with Kevin was the last time she heard from him. The soldier, along with 4 other Americans from Fort Bliss, died in an IED blast in Afghanistan on Saturday, according to the military.

      The 19-year-old's planned to wed when Kevin returned from his 1st tour in about 6 months.

      Ashley believes he TMs a hero who died doing what that he loved.

      "Kevin was really strong and brave in the military," she said. "He loved his job and he loved the people he worked with. Everybody he met he was always giving."

      This is the second Edcouch-Elsa High School graduate to die overseas in the War on Terror.

      In 2001, SSG Estevan Altamirano also perished.

      The school district says it plans to do whatever it can to help the family the need.

      Rene Ramos, who's principal at the high school, says the district has a history of families in the military.

      This year alone, 7 students plan to join the Marines, 2 in the Army, according to Rene.

      "We see that a lot here," the principal explained. "There's a lot of patriotism. I think all over the Valley as well. We have a lot of students that go on into the military and defend our country."

      The school plans to collect donations for the late soldier's family.

      Gabriel Contreras is a junior at Edcouch-Elsa High who plans to give.

      "We all look after each other," he said. "We all feel for each other. And it's great to be a part of it. My heart goes out to Kevin."

      He TMs a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice, leaving behind 2 children ages 4 and 2.

      His body is expected to arrive in Delaware on Wednesday and could be back in the Rio Grande Valley as early as Friday.

      Funeral arrangements are pending.

      Cardoza TMs immediate family is still coping with the loss and asked not to speak on camera.

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