Story by: Capt. Maria Mengrone, 176th Engineer Brigade
Posted: May 28, 2015
A Memorial Day celebration turned tragic for a Texas Army National Guard family at Matagorda Beach, May 25, 2015.
Van Vleck resident, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph T. Ros’ son was pulled under water by a strong riptide. Ros immediately went in to the water to pull his son out, and was able to get his son to safety, but was then pulled under by the same riptide, losing his life.
News of his passing quickly spread and invoked a wave of grief and disbelief among guardsmen who served alongside Ros, known to most as simply “Joe,” throughout Ros’ more than 20 years of military service.
“All his former soldiers were saying ‘not sergeant Ros, it can’t be him’,” said long-time friend of Ros, Texas Army National Guard Warrant Officer Joey Rodriguez, 237th Engineer Co., 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade. “For many of us, he was more than a mentor. He was more like a brother to me. He pushed me to do better for myself - he is the main reason I became a warrant officer.”
Ros entered service on April 17, 1989 as a combat engineer and served in various engineer units across Texas. He deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in late 2004 to 2005.
In his first year of service Ros met retired Sgt. Guadalupe Martinez Jr. of Brenham, Texas.
“We met in 1990 and ever since we have remained close friends,” said Martinez. “I remember sitting in the middle of Iraq and Joe asked me, ‘Why are you here in Iraq? Before I could answer, Joe said he was here because it was historical and it was something he wanted to be able to share with his children when they asked about this war.”
“We shared a common goal,” said Martinez. “To serve our country.”
According to many of the guardsmen who served alongside him, being in the National Guard, for Ros, was about service – to his country and to his fellow Texans.
Just days before he passed, Ros was helping the Guard coordinate the engineer response to severe flooding across the state.
“I had just spoken to him a few days prior because he had volunteered for state active duty to assist in the flood missions,” said Staff Sgt. Nelson M. Zepeda, construction operations sergeant, 272nd Engineer Co. “That’s just the way he was, always wanted to help people.”
His love and dedication to his country and his state was big, but his devotion to his family was even bigger.
“He loved his wife, three boys and little girl so much; nothing was going to come between his love for them,” said Zepeda. “I’m going to miss his calls and texts so much.”
Senior leaders also recognize the lasting impact of losing an important non-commissioned officer like Ros, particularly within the engineer community.
“I count him as one of my friends; I’ve known him for 20 years. He was an outstanding individual both personally and professionally,“ said Maj. Mikel T. Sledge, battalion executive officer, 386th Engineer Bn. “It will be a substantial loss to the unit, his friends and his family.”
Leaders and peers saw him as both a friend and a good soldier.
“When I first met Joe I knew I had a high-speed soldier. I told him my expectations and showed him the rules and regulations, he took off and excelled,” said retired Sgt. 1st Class McCord, former section sergeant to Ros. “He was a good man, a good person.”
Ros, a traditional guardsman, also worked in education. He started out as a special education teacher in the Bay City school district. After several years in Bay City, he moved to the Van Vleck school district to work as a high school assistant principal and then the middle school principal. After his tenure as principal, Ros continued his service to the school district, and the children in Van Vleck, as Director of Maintenance and Transportation.
Van Vleck ISD scheduled an early release day for faculty, staff and students so that they could have an opportunity to attend funeral services for Ros.
“I’m going to miss him greatly,” said McCord. “I’m praying for his family, he loved them dearly. Joe Ros is irreplaceable, one of a kind. He is now an angel in heaven.”