Waukesha — When Army officers and a chaplain knocked at the home of Jorge and Andrea Hidalgo, they knew the worst had happened.
What they didn’t know – which son?
All three sons in the Hidalgo family are serving our country, two West Point graduates stationed in Afghanistan and a Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton.
The Army officers told them gently that it was Daren, the youngest of the family’s three boys. A 2009 West Point graduate, 1st Lt. Daren Hidalgo was serving his first deployment in Afghanistan, and as a platoon commander in a Stryker Calvary Regiment he was known for his leadership and care of his men. In fact, he had been wounded in an IED attack two weeks before his Feb. 20 death but refused to leave his soldiers to seek treatment for shrapnel wounds to his thigh.
Instead he took antibiotics and joked to his father via e-mail that he now set off metal detectors.
He said “Dad, if I have surgery I’ll be away from my men. It could be two weeks or six weeks,” Jorge Hidalgo said at his Waukesha home Tuesday morning. “It’s ironic. If he had come out (for medical treatment) we wouldn’t be preparing a funeral.”
Army Capt. Miles Hidalgo, 26, had just returned from a mission when told his commander wanted to see him. When he saw the chaplain he knew it was bad news. Miles and Daren had talked and e-mailed each other in Afghanistan but hadn’t managed to see each other. Daren Hidalgo was supposed to meet with his brother the day before he was killed, but a last-minute change in mission canceled the reunion.
Miles Hidalgo flew to Dover Air Force Base, where he met his brother’s casket and escorted it to Waukesha. A 2006 West Point graduate, Miles Hidalgo will give a eulogy at his brother’s funeral Wednesday at St. Anthony on the Lake Catholic Church in Pewaukee.
“I was never really worried about him. Every time we talked, I’d say: ‘Stay safe.’ Daren had taken his job very seriously and was prepared,” said Miles Hidalgo, who will return to his unit in Afghanistan after his brother’s funeral.
Revenge is not something Miles Hidalgo thinks about. There’s no desire to avenge his brother’s death but to continue his mission and ultimately try to make Afghanistan a country where bombs no longer explode.
“The sad truth is it’s about economics over there,” said Miles Hidalgo, who is on his fourth Afghan deployment. “I’m not really angry at the person who dug the hole and put the IED in. It was probably some poor guy who did it to get paid. If anything it’s renewed my sense of purpose over there. Politics really doesn’t come into play – you make sure the guys on the left and right of you survive.”
Son of Harley executive
The family moved quite a bit as the three boys and their younger sister, Carmen, grew up. Jorge Hidalgo was an executive at Harley-Davidson and worked at the plants in York, Pa., and in Milwaukee. Daren Hidalgo was born at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida and attended Wales Elementary School and Kettle Moraine middle and high schools before finishing high school in Pennsylvania.
His oldest brother Jared Hidalgo was best friends at Kettle Moraine High School with Rich Warner. Both joined the Marines on the same day, Warner choosing to enlist and Jared Hidalgo going through officer training while studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. When Warner was sent to Iraq in 2004 with his Milwaukee-based Marine Reserves unit, Daren Hidalgo and his sister organized their high school classmates to send letters and care packages.
Warner joked with his family that he got more care packages, containing better items, from Daren Hidalgo’s school than he got from his own family, said Warner’s stepfather, Pat Donahue. The two families were close because of the friendship between Warner and Jared Hidalgo, and in December 2004, when Warner was killed, the first call Pat and Mary Donahue made was to the Hidalgos. Now it was the Hidalgos’ turn – their first call after the Army officers left their home was to Pat and Mary Donahue.
“This is quite a family,” Pat Donahue said of the Hidalgos. “Talk about sacrifice, and of course, now the ultimate sacrifice.”
Marine Capt. Jared Hidalgo, 28, who served in Iraq in 2007 and ’08, learned of Warner’s death in a call from his father. Even though he’s a Marine, he has only one tattoo. Lifting his left shirt sleeve, he shows off his best friend’s initials and the Marine Corps motto – “RDW Semper Fi” – on his biceps.
“I promised Rich we’d get a tattoo together when he got back from Iraq, and when he didn’t come back I got one in his honor. I didn’t want to get another tattoo because somehow that would lessen this one,” Jared Hidalgo said. “But now with my brother I want to get another tattoo.”
Tuesday morning the family talked about Daren Hidalgo’s effervescent personality, his smile, his wanderlust, his large group of friends and acquaintances.
Daren Hidalgo was a good high school wrestler, a trumpet player and an accomplished racquetball player who graduated from West Point with a degree in Spanish. He loved to travel. While at West Point he signed up to spend a month at the DMZ in Korea – explaining to his father that he was interested in history. After graduation he completed the Army’s elite and grueling Ranger School.
Born to serve
A 1981 West Point graduate, Jorge Hidalgo is not surprised his sons would follow in his path and choose to serve. Jorge Hidalgo, who immigrated to America from the Dominican Republic when he was 7, brought Miles to West Point when he attended his 20th class reunion, and his second oldest son fell in love with the military academy. And when Miles was a senior at West Point, Daren joined him at the school.
“Serving your nation and community is important,” Jorge Hidalgo said. “This is a beautiful country. That’s the philosophy of this family.”
When Daren Hidalgo’s family asked him what he wanted for Christmas, he said he wanted presents for his platoon. So the family organized a care package drive and sent more than 30 Christmas packages to his unit.
When they asked him what he wanted for his birthday, Daren Hidalgo noted that he had been assigned to a new command outpost that did not have a coffee maker. He asked for a coffee maker for his soldiers.
Daren’s birthday is Friday. It’s the day he’ll be buried at West Point.
His parents sent the coffee maker for his birthday. It hadn’t arrived by the time he was killed. Jorge and Andrea Hidalgo told his company commander to open all packages that arrive in Afghanistan for their son.
They wanted to make sure Daren Hidalgo’s men will get his birthday present.
Visitation will be from 11 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Wednesday at St. Anthony on the Lake Catholic Church, W280-N2101 Highway SS, Pewaukee. A eulogy will begin at 3:45 p.m. followed by funeral Mass at 4 p.m.
Donations to the Daren M. Hidalgo Memorial Fund for scholarships and support of wounded soldiers may be made to U.S. Bank, 2040 W. Silvernail Road, Pewaukee, Wis., 53072.
1st Lt. Daren M Hidalgo, 24, was killed in action Saturday, Feb. 20, 2011, while serving his country in Afghanistan.
Daren attended Kettle Moraine Middle School and Kettle Moraine High School and was a member of the school band and wrestled there. He graduated from Pennsylvania’s Dallastown Area High School in 2005, where he was a championship wrestler, National Honor Society member and a trumpeter in the school marching band.
Daren was accepted to the prestigious U.S. Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, N.Y. He excelled at the academy, serving as G-4 Company Commander during his senior year. Daren graduated near the top of the Class of 2009 with a Bachelor of Science degree. In the Army, he completed numerous courses to include the extremely challenging Ranger School.
Earning the coveted Ranger Tab was one of the many proud moments of his short career. Daren was assigned to 3rd Platoon, Ghostrider Company, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany.
Deployed to the Maiwand District of Afghanistan in October 2010, Daren executed his duties and responsibilities to perfection. Throughout numerous combat engagements, he gained a reputation in the squadron that was second to none. His ability to assess any situation and fix any problem was awe-inspiring to those who knew him. Daren’s greatest talent was his ability to maintain a positive attitude and inspire each of his soldiers to be great. He was a man who stood up when others would not and a man who said “send me” when others wouldn’t go. He has earned posthumously the award of a Bronze Star and the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster.
Daren was known for his winning smile and engaging personality. He was a jokester and prankster, always looking to cheer up people around him. His strength of character and empathy endeared him to all who met him.
Daren will be sadly missed by his parents, Jorge and Andrea; siblings, Jared (Jenny) Hidalgo, Miles (Caroline) Hidalgo and Carmen (Mike) Spellman; nephews, Wade and Carson; and his niece, Lexie. His extended family and many friends will miss him also.
Daren’s life and legacy will never be forgotten. All of us fortunate enough to have known him will cherish his memory, love and friendship.
Visitation will be held from 11 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 2, at St. Anthony on the Lake Catholic Church, W280-N2101 Highway SS, Pewaukee. A remembrance presentation will begin at 3:45 p.m., with the funeral Mass at 4 p.m. Burial will be in West Point Cemetery in New York later this week.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Daren M. Hidalgo Memorial Fund. It will be used for future scholarships and support of wounded soldiers.
Donations can be made at any US Bank in the country. A local mailing address is US Bank, 2040 W. Silvernail Road, Pewaukee, WI 53072.
For further information, please call Randle-Dable Funeral, Cremation, & Preplanning Services at 547-4035. To leave the family an online tribute message, visit www.waukeshafunerals.com
Funeral services for , 24, of Waukesha are pending, according to , which is assisting the family.
Hidalgo’s obituary states he attended classes at Kettle Moraine middle and high schools where he was a wrestler.
Hidalgo later attended a high school in Pennsylvania. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2009, his obituary states.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Daren M. Hidalgo Memorial Fund, US Bank 2040 W. Silvernail Road Pewaukee, WI 53072, according to his obituary.