Kentucky says farewell to Capt. Noel Espino, a resilient soldier whose story touched so many lives

Story by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, Kentucky’s adjutant general, visits with Capt. Noel Espino and his wife, Rose (left) and daughter Jasmine.  A member of the Guam National Guard, Capt. Noel Espino was seriously injured by a drunk driver 11:03 p.m., Friday, Sept. 19 2014 while visiting Kentucky for military training. (Photo courtesy the Espino family)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Another proud but tragic chapter of Kentucky National Guard history has now been written. We collectively bid farewell to one of our adopted sons and his family.

A member of the Guam National Guard, Capt. Noel Espino was seriously injured by a drunk driver 11:03 p.m., Friday, Sep. 19, 2014 while visiting Kentucky for military training. He has since undergone several surgeries and weeks of grueling physical therapy in recovery.

Members of the Kentucky National Guard joined University of Kentucky Hospital staff, health care providers, the Lexington Fire Department, the Catholic church, the local Filipino community and others to support the Espino family throughout the duration of their stay in Kentucky.

“The Kentucky National Guard really showed strength, dedication, loyalty, and support to the Espino Family,” said Adjutant General Edward W. Tonini. “It is a positive reflection of caring for our extended Guam National Guard family during a very difficult time.”

“I have witnessed firsthand the strength of this whole remarkable family,” said Tonini. “It is nearly beyond comprehension yet I believe the combination of their strong faith and military mindset prepared them well for this unforeseen period.”

Capt. Espino and his wife Rose departed Kentucky on last week to travel to the Palo Alto Veterans Medical Center where he will receive continued care there.  They left a note of gratitude, which reads as follows:

Greetings,

It’s been 16 weeks since Noel’s accident. We are happy to share with you that Noel has surpassed any initial expectation and was dubbed the “Miracle Baby” for ICU at Albert B. Chandler Hospital at the University of Kentucky. We spent Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years here and Noel, Rose and Jasmine also celebrated their birthdays here in Lexington during this trying time. Noel is moving on to a VA hospital in California to initiate his therapy.   He still has a long road to recovery ahead of him so your continued prayers are always welcome. The circumstances that we were introduced to Lexington were very traumatic and dismal, however the community of Lexington showed their true colors and were more than supportive throughout this trying time for our family. For this we are truly grateful and blessed.

 We would like to thank the Blue team, ICU team, Ortho team, Plastic team, Cardio team, Renal team and all the hospital staff that provided their expertise to the health care and needs of Noel. A special thanks to Dr. Tucker, Dr. Proctor, Dr. Dudley and Dr. Bernard.

We would like to also thank the Kentucky National Guard and 41st CST for their dedicated support, with a special thank you to BG Adams, MG Tonini, CH (MAJ) Draper and family and MAJ Grant and family. Your visits and support throughout this trying time was paramount in keeping our spirits high.

To the Catholic community of Lexington we thank you so much for your kind words of support and prayers. You shared our pain and prayed with us throughout this trying time and the Lord has answered our prayers. Please continue to pray for Noel as his journey to recovery is still long and will have many obstacles to overcome. A special thanks to Father Al, Father Norman, Father Chris, Father Noel, Father Steve, and the entire congregation and staff of the Newman Center.

 To the Filipino community of Lexington, thank you so much for seeking us out and accepting us into your family. Your family values were truly a blessing to our family. A special thanks to Dr. and Mrs. Primo Milan, Ramon and Bing and Dr. Nely for all your visits, prayers and kind words of support. Finally, to Bertha and Jack and Christine Jackson and family, our Chamorro family away from home, thank you for adopting us and making us feel at home. Your nurturing presence was a godsend.

 If we have forgotten to thank or mention anyone, please forgive us as the support shown and provided to us by the Lexington community was overwhelming and cannot be measured, but know in our hearts that we are ever so thankful for all you have done for us.

May God bless us all,

CPT Noel Espino and family