Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Jose C. Rangel was a friendly, giving and modest individual who enjoyed barbecuing and was known for his tasty salsa, his wife says.
“He was a caring person who thought of others before he thought of himself,” said Noemi Rangel, his wife of 13 years. “If he had one last dollar, he would spend it on someone else.”
Her husband was so dedicated to helping others, she said, that when she was giving birth to their first son, she remembers his saying that if he could trade places with her he would so she wouldn’t feel the pain.
Rangel, 43, of Fresno died of noncombat-related injuries Jan. 23 at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, according to the Department of Defense. He was assigned to the Army National Guard’s 1106th Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depot in Fresno, where he worked with hazardous materials.
Noemi Rangel was told that her husband was jogging for a training drill and collapsed after he told someone that he didn’t feel well. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead after attempts to revive him failed.
His wife said she has a hard time accepting the notion that he had a heart attack, because he was healthy and his family didn’t have a history of heart disease. She is waiting for the autopsy report.
On the morning of his death, Rangel called home and spoke to his wife and their three sons: Randy, 11; Michael, 7; and Andrew, 2. He said he was going to eat breakfast, go to church and ship a Valentine’s Day package for his family.
Noemi Rangel received the package nine days after his death. He had sent T-shirts and toys for the boys and a trinket for her that was metaphorically the key to his heart. “He showed me patience and how to love,” his wife said. “He was brave.”
On the night before he left for Kuwait, she remembers that he was up late reading to and playing with his sons. They all slept together that night.
The youngest of 10, Rangel was born in Nayarit, Mexico. His family moved to Ensenada, Mexico, and then to Stockton when he was 13.
To honor Rangel’s wish of being buried next to his parents at San Joaquin Catholic Cemetery in Stockton, his sisters gave up their reserved burial plots for him and his wife.