Diomaris Neris of Lakewood got to know Alcantara while he was stationed at Fort Lewis. She wanted to share her memories of the young soldier, killed Aug. 6 in Baqouba.
“He was born in Santiago, Dominican Republic and immigrated to New York City at the age of five months. He joined the Army immediately after graduating high school because he wanted to use his GI bill to pay for college.
“He was very excited about going to Iraq because as he put it ‘we are going to kick butt.’ He was so excited about coming (home) next month because he couldn’t wait to meet his daughter. It breaks my heart to think he didn’t get that chance.
“… He also wanted to be a police officer once he got out of the military. In addition to being in love with his daughter and being excited about being a soldier, Cpl. Alcantara was a wonderful and loyal friend. Once he became your friend he was truly your friend.
“He loved to laugh (and make others laugh), dance, play basketball and football. It was through his love for dancing that he and my daughter met – dancing at Latin Sensation in Fort Lewis. They became good friends, especially after he found out that she was of Dominican descent as well.
“The night before his deployment he and members of his unit came over to my house for dinner and despite leaving for war he was upbeat and his jovial self. I am deeply saddened by his death as are all of his friends. Juan truly was a human being that made the world a better place.”