Army Staff Sgt. Kelvin Irizarry-Melendez pleaded guilty Thursday to drug charges and was sentenced by a military judge to six years of confinement, reduction to private, forfeiture of pay and a dishonorable discharge.
Irizarry-Melendez, 26, an exemplary soldier who rose rapidly in the enlisted ranks, was accused of conspiring with others to smuggle cocaine from Colombia and of transporting money in connection with the scheme.
After entering his plea, the tearful Irizarry-Melendez told the court, "I have done a terrible thing. I have embarrassed my country, the Army and my family." He also said he became involved because he needed money to pay for his young daughter's expensive medical treatments that the insurance company did not cover.