November 17, 2005
Meeting Eddie: A soldier's story
By SSG Paul H. Modesto - Camp Victory, Iraq
First off, my name is Staff Sergeant Paul H. Modesto Sr. I am a soldier currently deployed in Iraq for my second tour. What I would like the family members to know is that I have been watching wrestling since I was a child and even today, I am still a big fan. I happened to meet Eddie Guerrero in Sacramento, CA while heading back to Fort Hood, Texas. I was getting ready to deploy again and was on emergency leave for a few days. The night I left just happened to be the midnight flight or Red Eye flight on the Fourth of July this year. I have more to say about that night but first.
As I read about the passing of Eddie Guerrero, I thought about the importance of how special that day was for me. You see, I wrestled throughout Middle School, High School and then for USA Wrestling. It was then when I put in an application for Ted Turner's Power Plant and wanted to wrestle for WCW. I became a huge fan, trained harder than ever, and was dedicated to eating right and working out. I have always seen Eddie Guerrero and many other superstars. I must admit I was not the biggest Guerrero fan right away. Then one day, Eddie came out with the LWO (Latino World Order) T-Shirt. I was so proud to see that. I was a proud Mexican American, so I ran out to get me my own LWO t-shirt. I have worn that shirt out, to the point I made it a muscle shirt as a matter of fact. I have the Mexican flag and that very shirt here with me in Iraq.
I happened to be living in Lodi, California at the time of all the training. I was working for COCO's family restaurant as a line cook, my wife happened to be a waitress there as well. It was their at COCO's where Ken Shamrock and his father, Bob Shamrock, ate breakfast just about every day. It was an honor at the time to know I cooked Ken Shamrock's breakfast.
I talked to him about wresting and how I wanted to wrestle for the WCW in the lightweight competition. It drove me to train harder and I got some tips from Ken Shamrock about training. After saving my money and getting ready to submit my application to the WCW, I realized that you had to be 5-feet, 9-inches tall to go to the Power Plant. I was devastated. I ended up finding a different job and realized that I had to change my goals. With wresting now no longer being my passion, I had to set new goals. I decided to join the California Army National Guard.
Just as I spoke earlier, this is my second trip to Iraq. As I stood in line at the airport waiting to check in on that fourth of July night, I looked in front of me and I said to myself, 'That looks like Christian.' I thought it was just me, when I turned around and saw Orlando Jones standing right behind me. I couldn't believe I was in line with WWE superstars.
I was not flying in my uniform because I didn't want to draw attention to myself. It is for security purposes. As I looked towards the counter, I noticed Eddie Guerrero standing in front of me with a straw in his mouth, in his black sportscoat and jeans. Next to Eddie was Chris Benoit. I was like a little kid on Christmas Day standing in front of the Christmas tree. You should have seen the gleam in my eyes.
As I got closer to the counter I said hello to Eddie Guerrero. He looked at me and said 'Hello.' To me, that was a big moment. I finally met the man that made me proud of my heritage and he was all I ever wanted to be.
At first he didn't say much. I figured it was just about midnight and he was tired, probably from a show and didn't want to be bothered by a fan.
I then told him how I am looking forward to seeing him in Iraq and that I had just left Iraq when they showed up. He looked at me and said 'What is your name again?' As he reached his hand out, I told him my name again and he then told me how proud of us soldiers he was, that us soldiers were true heroes in his eyes.
I told him it's ironic, but I have felt like that about him for many years. I can only begin to tell you how proud Eddie talked about us troops and then he went on about his trip to Iraq and how he felt about being there for the two weeks.
I had forgotten that I had my camera with me, and at that time his cell phone rang and I called my wife right away to tell her who I was standing there talking to for the past 20 minutes. As Eddie hung up his phone, he still stood next to me. I felt like, 'Wow, here is favorite WWE Superstar waiting to continue his conversation with me.' I asked Eddie to say hello to my wife and he was more than happy to. I hung up the phone with my wife so I could talk to Eddie more, a few minutes later the plane started to board.
I asked Eddie if I could get a picture of us and when I saw him in Iraq he could sign it. He said for a soldier he would be honored to take a picture with me. I didn't know he had a seat in the front of the cabin as I made my way through the cabin. I saw Booker T, J.R., Kurt Angle, Hardcore Holly, and many others. As we arrived in Texas, I could not find Eddie Guerrero, but I knew I would see him again in Iraq.
Now that will never happen.
I now realize that we shared a moment on that 4th of July. I realize that no matter how long the hour, how long the day or how long this tour will last, I met a man and a legend who was proud of me and the service I do for my country, his country, our country. I will never forget the day I met Eddie Guerrero and how much it meant to me. I will continue to train hard, train my troops and be even that much more proud as a Mexican American that a superstar like Eddie Guerrero cares about us soldiers.
My prayers go out to the Guerrero family.
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