On a stormy autumn evening in Louisville, Ky., Sharri Ford nervously stepped off a flight from Los Angeles to meet the man she would eventually marry. She had spoken to Jose Regalado only on the phone, but their siblings were married and it already seemed like a perfect match.
"He was the only person who could make me smile," she said. "He would always say, 'Sharri don't worry. Whatever it is, it will work itself out.' "
On Nov. 12, however, Army Sgt. Jose Regalado, 23, who lived in the El Sereno area of Los Angeles, was one of two soldiers 23killed in Mosul, Iraq, when a uniformed Iraqi soldier approached them and opened fire.
The shooting occurred shortly before noon as a group of American troops were conducting a routine visit to an Iraqi security post, military officials said. The incident is under investigation.
Regalado was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Ft. Hood, Texas.
He got his first taste of military life as a freshman at Woodrow Wilson High School in Los Angeles when he traded in his childhood love for Mexican folk dancing and joined the Junior ROTC. The aspiring cadet soon decided to enlist in the Army immediately after graduating in 2003.
Two years later, Regalado was deployed on his first tour of Iraq, an experience that was both rewarding and sobering. When he returned to Kentucky a year later, Regalado focused on his other passion: disassembling and reconstructing cars.
Regalado and Sharri were married May 3, 2007, just seven months after she landed for that first meeting.
As their relationship developed, so did Regalado's skills as a mechanic. Sharri always wanted a cherry-red 1967 Mustang. Regalado practiced on less challenging vehicles, hoping one day to restore the perfect car for his wife.
Regalado transformed the entire kitchen into a mechanic's shop. Eventually, however, the would-be mechanic overran the entire house with his hobby. But he was killed before getting the chance to put his new skills to work on the prized Mustang.
While Regalado was stationed at Kentucky's Ft. Knox, the couple celebrated every moment they could steal for themselves. They tried not to think about his eventual redeployment, distracting themselves by spending days at the shooting range or pretend house-hunting for the five children they planned to raise.
"We went everywhere together, even the market or gas station," said Sharri, 21. "We tried to make every moment count because we didn't know when he would be deployed."
Just two weeks before Regalado departed for his second tour of Iraq, the couple learned that Sharri was pregnant.
Regalado carried his daughter’s ultrasound photo throughout his deployment as a good-luck charm. After Jaimie was born, Sharri sometimes wore her husband's cologne so that their daughter would recognize her father when they finally met.
"Everything was family," Sharri said. "If someone needed anything, he was always on the ball. He was totally selfless."
In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by his father, Jose; his mother, Raquel; and siblings Elizabeth, Erik, Haydee and Wendy.
Lozano is a Times staff writer.