Retired Staff Sgt. Robert Pedro Mendoza, 43, of Oceanside, Calif., died on April 20, 2020, after becoming ill with COVID-19. He’s among the more than 550,000 Americans who have lost their lives to the disease since the first known fatality in early 2020.
His mother, Yolanda Mendoza, told Yahoo News that her son was a “loving person” who loved his family, his son and his country.
“He served in the United States Marine Corps for about 15 years. He loved being a Marine, and everything that it stood for.”
This is part of a Yahoo News series honoring some of the American lives lost to COVID-19. Their stories are told by family and friends, who were left to deal with their often sudden and painful deaths.
YOLANDA MENDOZA: My name is Yolanda Mendoza. I am the mother of Robert Pedro Mendoza, my only son, who passed away last year on April 20, 2020 of COVID-19.
My son was a loving person. He was so awesome in my eyes, and I'm sure he was in my husband's eyes. We were just so proud of him. He served in the United States Marine Corps for about 15 years. We loved each other very much.
Robert was very close to his Texan roots. Even though he lived in California, he was a devoted Astros fan. Robert would drive a truck. He would listen to country music.
Robert just loved Houston. And his family was here. Not just his parents and his sister, but Robert comes from a very large family from over here. This is Robert's roots.
As a young kid, he was a normal, mischievous little boy. In middle school he saw someone in a military uniform, in a Marine uniform. And he immediately said to himself "I'm going to be a Marine." He knew what he wanted to be at that point.
And I was hoping it was a phase. It was just going to be a phase he would get over one day. But no, he stuck with it. I knew he was determined to be a United States Marine.
He loved being a Marine and everything that he stood for. He loved the brotherhood. He did three tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf.
He wanted to start a family. Here he was in his mid 30s and didn't have any children yet. He went ahead and left the Marines. He did not reenlist. So he was honorably discharged.
After that, he had a son. Christian just changed his life. Oh my God, he loved that little boy. He was so proud of that little boy. Robert was an awesome dad. He was devoted to Christian. Christian was his life.
Robert started a shop called Tactical Defense Systems. And he made tactical gear. He was trying to help law enforcement officers and the military, anything that they needed at any time that they needed it.
And so that's what Robert did. But he had Christian at that point. And so he dedicated the rest of his life to his business and his son.
Robert started feeling a few days before Easter last year. To me, this has just been so shocking, that we lost our son. And he was just a big, solid guy. He had two black belts in jiu-jitsu.
He could tackle anything. He could go to war. He came back safely. My son's been shot at in the war. And for him to die of a virus? I just couldn't believe it.
We go visit him at the cemetery every weekend. We talk to him. We try to bring him up to date. We try to tell him about Christian, how Christian's doing. And I always ask Robert before I leave, I always ask Robert, if you can, try to just protect Christian and guide him if you can.
I feel like my son, even though he passed at 43, Robert has done much more at age 43 with his life than a man who has lived maybe in his 70s or 80s, because Robert lived a full life even though he passed away very young. And I'm just so proud of my son. I really am.