The Sun salutes the brave men and women of San Bernardino County who have stepped forward to proudly serve their country in the armed forces.
Navy SEAL Operator 1st Class Joshua P. Bicondova
Joshua Bicondova, 33, started as a pastry cook aboard the USS Carl Vincent and is now a Navy SEAL who has served three tours of duty in Iraq with the Team 5 Navy SEALs.
He will soon transfer to Virginia Beach to train with an elite group of SEALs. He specializes as an explosives expert and works as an instructor for deployment.
He participated in the San Diego Triathlon earlier this year and rises at 4 a.m. daily to train.
He is married to Jessica Porter and is the father of a young daughter, Carmen.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Valadez
Jesse Valadez, 37, completed a six-month tour of duty in Iraq with the Army in April.
He previously served in the Marines, which had been his childhood dream. His military career has taken him from Fort Campbell, Ky., Fort Drums, N.Y., and service as a drill instructor in South Carolina to his present station in Fort Wainwright in Alaska.
Among the military regalia he has earned is a medal for sharpshooting.
Valadez is married to Tina Valadez and has three children: Jesse Jr., 18, Justine, 16, and Janell, 12.
Army Pfc. Samantha Lopez
Samantha Lopez, 19, is serving in the Army in Baghdad. She is completing training as a medical supplier.
She graduated from San Gorgonio High School in 2005.
Lopez writes e-mails twice a week to her uncle Jesse Robledo, of San Bernardino, who encouraged her to join the Army.
She will be coming home for Christmas for a two-week visit, then will return to Baghdad.
Lopez and Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Valadez are cousins.
Army Pfc. Michele Montoya
Michele Montoya, 19, was deployed to Iraq for a one-year tour of duty with the Army in September. The Highland resident and San Gorgonio High School graduate enlisted and started basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., last year.
She had enrolled in a local college, but days after signing up for classes, she enlisted instead because she wanted to serve her country, said her father, Rudy Montoya.
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