Community honors soldier killed in Afghanistan - FOX 13 News

Community honors soldier killed in Afghanistan

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

The Bay area is commemorating the life of a hometown hero. Marine and U.S. Customs agent Joe Perez was killed while training border officers in Afghanistan in late July.

Joe Perez was a self-proclaimed workaholic.

"He was always at work. Twenty hours a day, thought the place would fall apart if he wasn't there," widow Debbie Perez smiled.

The 66-year old Marine spent the majority of his career in Tampa as a U.S. Customs director. This year, he took a contracting job in Afghanistan to teach their border officers his trade.

"He was training the Afghans to do the customs work. You know, protect the borders, search and seizure, that kind of stuff," Debbie Perez said.

Joe Perez never made it home from Afghanistan. He was shot and killed by one of the patrol officers he was training. It was just 12 days before he was to come home.

"I just never worried about him. Never thought he wasn't coming home," Debbie Perez said.

The community is now coming together to honor Perez's lifetime of public service. Organizers of the annual JGP Classic golf tournament at MacDill Air Force Base are dedicating their event to the hometown hero.

All proceeds from the tournament go toward the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit aiding injured service members.

"It means treating the people who go over there and lay their lives on the line every day with the kind of respect and honor they deserve when they get back," said JGP Classic organizer Johnny Papagiannis.

The group aims to raise $10,000 to give to the program. Every dollar will be dedicated to a man who sacrificed all.

"He was truly an American hero," Debbie Perez said Friday.

Joe Perez was a member of the VFW, the Fraternal Order of Police, and the American Legion in Tampa.

 

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