Plaque and trophy honor the memory of Rocky Herrera, who lost his life in Afghanistan.
The story of Sergeant First Class Rocky Herrera's life goes well beyond the tale of his death. It is a story in which the Utah native shielded other soldiers from a suicide bomber's blast while on duty in Afghanistan. Herrera's tale is one of living life to the fullest, the story of a person who brought joy and strength to those around him.
To make sure Herrera's life and deeds are remembered and talked about when his military exploits have faded, Eagle Scout candidate Erick Olivas, 17, has asked a Salt Lake School Board to rename Parkview Elementary in Glendale in honor of Herrera.
According to Olivas, the school's name currently doesn't have much meaning and Herrera's heroism would give the elementary a moniker to be proud of.
"He took care of those around him, even when he was very little." said Rocky's mother Elaine Herrera from her home in Price. "He wasn't a coward, he would take care of his friends when someone tried to bully them in school. I knew he would take care of the men under his command the same way."
Rocky attended Parkview and then West High School before joining the Army at age 23. He was killed in Jaji, Afghanistan in 2007 and buried with full military honors.
According to his mother, Herrera and two other soldiers in his company were killed by a suicide bomber's blast. Herrera was trying to shield others, she said. The engineer who had served 20 years in the military died at age 43, receiving the bronze star and purple heart posthumously for his actions.
"The news was devastating," said Rocky's mother, explaining the news of her son's death. "But it seemed like something Rocky would do."
During her interview with the Sun Advocate, Elaine Herrera enjoyed talking about Rocky's exploits as a boxer as much as his honors as a soldier. She explained that he was a 10 Bells Boxing Champion and trained from the time he was 9 at the Leo Montoya Boxing Club.
"He ran all the time to keep himself in shape," she said. "I think even in his 40s he could keep up with those 20-year-old kids in the service. He boxed seriously from 9-16 and had his last bout at around 20, she said.
The club has held moments of silence while ringing 10 bells several times for Herrera since his passing in Afghanistan.
Boy Scout Olivas heard of Herrera's exploits as he grew up and decided there would be no better way to become an Eagle Scout.
Since presenting to the school board, Olivas and Elaine Herrera have found a sponsor within the school district as, Board Member J. Michael Clara from Salt Lake City's District 2 came to a Price media event on March 15 to discuss the school's renaming and show support for Oliva's project. The board will reportedly take action on the issue sometime this year.
While Rocky never lived in Castle Country, his father "Chick" Herrera has family from every corner of the area.
Rocky's cousin Duane Padilla, of East Carbon, was interviewed by several Salt Lake papers, including Intermountain Catholic, after Herrera's death.
"He was a natural leader but wasn't big into the limelight," said Padilla, when interviewed by Intermountain Catholic. "Whatever he did, he did with integrity."