At the beginning of the Iraq War, nearly 40,000 members of the United States military were not citizens. Army Private First Class Diego Rincon was one of them. As a child, he had immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia with his family. He he always known he wanted to join the military, and at 19, he enlisted in the Army.

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Diego was deployed to Iraq in March 2003, at the beginning of the war. Just 11 days in, he was killed by a suicide bomber. Diego received U.S. citizenship on April 10, 2003 — the day of his funeral.

His parents, George Rincon and Yolanda Reyes, came to StoryCorps to remember him.

Originally aired May 26, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top photo: Diego Rincon. Courtesy of the Rincon Family.
Bottom photo: Army Pfc. Diego Rincon’s uniform and photograph stand next to his flag-draped casket during a funeral service on April 10, 2003 in Conyers, Georgia. AP Photo/John Bazemore