Osbaldo Orozco

1st Lieutenant - Platoon Leader 2nd Platoon

Company C 1-22 Infantry

4th Infantry Division (Mechanized)

KIA April 26, 2003

 

 

1st LT Osbaldo Orozco was the first soldier of 1st Battalion 22nd Infantry,
and also the first soldier of the 4th Infantry Division,
to be killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

His hometown was Earlimart, California. At the time of his death he was 26 years old.

He was a star high school football player who attended California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo,
on a full football scholarship. The second-oldest of five brothers, he was the first in the family to graduate from college.
Osbaldo shone on the football field. He was a captain for Cal Poly's Mustangs in 1999 and was named
the team's Most Inspirational Player.

Orozco enrolled in Cal Poly's ROTC program and was commissioned as an Army officer on June 16, 2001,
the same day he got his bachelor's degree in social science.

He had been married for two years to Mayra Mendez Orozco. Mayra said of her husband:
"He had a real leadership quality......his men adored him and respected him.
He was ready to go and do his job."

Osbaldo Orozco was a respected and well liked member of his community. He led by example,
and was looked up to by many. He will be missed by his family, friends, and his fellow brothers-in-arms
of 1st Battalion 22nd Infantry.

"Baldo was attacking a farmhouse leading a BFV section in Mezhem, Iraq north of Tikrit on the evening of
April 25th, 2003. He was maneuvering a section of Bradleys in support of our scouts to provide covering fire
against about 40 Republican Guard soldiers. While firing their chain guns at this farm, his vehicle
dropped off an unseen cliff as they moved on this enemy position. He was killed when the vehicle crushed him."

 

LT Osbaldo Orozco, with arms raised, in the turret of his Bradley,
photo taken just two days before he was killed.

Photo from The Californian

 

 

 

LT Osbaldo Orozco's decorations

 

 

 

 

 

LT Osbaldo Orozco with his wife Mayra

The following is taken from THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN May 6, 2003:

 

Services: Wed., May 7, 11:30 a.m.

Services will be held Wednesday, May 7, at St. Judes Catholic Church, 1270 E. Washington Street, in Earlimart, for Osbaldo Orozco,
who gave his life for his country, April 25, in Tikrit, Iraq. With his death, Osbaldo leaves his family and legions of friends mourning his loss,
but celebrating his strength, courage and zest for life.

Osbaldo was born March 19, 1977, to Jorge and Reyes Orozco, the second of five sons. Raised in Earlimart, he attended
Earlimart Elementary and Middle Schools and was a 1995 graduate of Delano High School, where, on the football field,
he proved himself a natural leader. Osbaldo played varsity football for three years, making all-valley, all-area and all-state teams.
A formidable 6-foot-one, 225 pounder his senior year, he was recruited by a host of colleges, but chose Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo,
where he attended on full football scholarship. Affable off the field, but relentless on, Osbaldo was named to the NCAA Division 1-AA
Independent first team his sophomore year and racked up 300 total tackles by the end of his college career.

Osbaldo joined the ROTC while at Cal Poly and fell in love with the rigors and discipline of military life. He earned his commission
as an officer in the U.S. Army on June 16, 2001, the day he graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in social sciences.

Osbaldo married Mayra Mendez the week following graduation and the couple moved to Fort Benning, Georgia, where they lived 11 months,
then moved to Fort Hood, Texas, where he joined the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment and trained to lead Bradley fighting vehicles
into battle. As exemplary on the battlefield as he was on the football field, Osbaldos friends and family were saddened, but not surprised,
to learn that their champion lost his life while rushing to aide fellow soldiers under fire.

Osbaldo will be missed always. In Osbaldo, Mayra found the love of her life, her protector and knight in steel armor. In Osbaldo
his parents found a son who took the Fifth Commandment to heart and honored his parents in word and action to the final day of his life.
In Osbaldo his brothers found a hero and best friend. For the rest of their lives they will say to their children and grandchildren
Baldo was the best of us.

Osbaldo is survived by Mayra, his wife of two years; parents, Jorge and Reyes Orozco; brother and sister-in-law,
George and Marilu Orozco, Jr.; brothers, Johnny, Andy and Ozzie Orozco; grandmother Ignacia Orozco; nephew and nieces,
Hector, Jackelyn and Angel Orozco and many other beloved family members and friends.

Delano Mortuary Funeral Directors

 

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Hundreds gather in Earlimart to remember soldier killed in war
Orozco admired as role model with big heart

By Shannon Darling
Staff writer VISALIA TIMES-DELTA

 



Johanna Vossler/Times-Delta

EARLIMART --

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Osbaldo Orozco was a role model.

Neighbors looked up to him, classmates admired him and friends came from as far away as Georgia to pay their respects,
joining more than 300 friends and family members Tuesday night during a wake at the home of Orozco's parents.

"He was just a good guy," said Clifton Barbee, a Delano High School classmate of Orozco's. "He just had such a big heart."

Orozco was deployed with the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment based in Fort Hood, Texas, when he was killed April 25 while near
a checkpoint under fire in Tikrit, Iraq. Orozco was killed when his Bradley tank flipped over as it maneuvered into position to return fire.
He was 26.

Orozco was one of two soldiers who died that day.

The 6-foot, 1-inch star linebacker was known for his great football skills. He even passed up a chance to play professional football to enlist.

Even though Barbee fought back tears at his friend's wake, he said he was proud his friend served the country, making the ultimate sacrifice.

Yellow ribbons and U.S. flags decorated the home of Jorge and Reyes Orozco, the parents of Osbaldo Orozco. Friends and family
filled the house, the front yard and blocked the streets in front of their Earlimart home.

"He was friends with everybody," said Sal Jimenez, 18.

Jimenez lived only two houses down from the Orozcos and he said he saw Orozco almost as an older brother.

"I looked up to him a lot. I looked at the way he made his family proud and wanted to be like that," Jimenez said. "He helped me grow up."

Jimenez said he can't remember a time when Orozco wasn't helping someone.

"He was always there for someone. In this case, it was for his country," Jimenez said.



Johanna Vossler/Times-Delta

Orozco left behind his parents; his wife, Mayra Mendez Orozco, and five brothers.

"You couldn't have asked for a better son-in-law," said Luis Martinez, Orozco's father-in-law.

Orozco and his wife would have celebrated their second year of marriage in June.
The two were high school sweethearts and had no children

"It's so hard to understand," Martinez said. "Nobody can take Osbaldo's place."

At 26 years old, Martinez said it will be difficult for his daughter to deal with the loss of her husband.

"It just hurts a lot you know," he said.

Mayra Orozco wore the identification tags of her late husband during the wake.

Services will be at 11:30 today at St. Jude's Catholic Church in Earlimart. More than 1,800 students from all three of the
public schools in Earlimart are expected to line the streets of the small town to pay tribute to the fallen soldier.

Carrying yellow roses, family friend Stacey Brownell said Orozco was happy to have the chance to join the Army,
which he did after graduating from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

"He was probably one of the best people I knew," Brownell said. "He did everything for his family and friends."

Originally published Wednesday, May 7, 2003

 

**********************

 

1st Lt. Osbaldo Orozco

 

Soldier Mourned
Army 1st Lt. Osbaldo Orozco, the Valley's first Iraq war fatality, is laid to rest.
By Jason D. Plemons
The Fresno Bee

(Published Thursday, May 8, 2003, 10:25 AM)


EARLIMART -- More than 350 people crowded inside St. Jude's Catholic Church while another crowd of about 500 waited outside Wednesday for the funeral of Army 1st Lt. Osbaldo Orozco, the Valley's first fatality in the war with Iraq.

Mourners stood in the parking lot. They stood across the street. They sat in chairs off to the side.

Mexican and American flags flew outside as yellow ribbons dotted the pews and aisles. Some people carried red and white flags of the United Farm Workers Union in homage to his family's farmworker past.

Orozco, 26, died April 25 when his Bradley fighting vehicle rolled over, crushing him under its weight. His unit was rushing to help others under attack near Tikrit, according to the Pentagon.

College football teammates stood next to farmworkers, reflecting two of Orozco's many roles: husband, son, brother, soldier, athlete, son of immigrants.

During the service, friends remembered him as the one who quickly patted them on the back. He thrust out his hand to offer help. He swiftly kicked them in the butt when they needed that, too.

"Animal gente," they said. The gentle animal.

At 6-foot-1, 250 pounds, Orozco wasn't afraid of much. But, friends said, he was also kind. He picked up hitchhikers, often bringing them home and giving them a meal.

His academic adviser at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, remembered him as the first student in 15 years to invite her over for dinner.

He was a star linebacker at Delano High School, named to The Bee's 1994 all-star football team. He attended Cal Poly on a football scholarship.

"Baldo was wild," said Cal Poly teammate David Kellogg. "He was always yelling and screaming at us, trying to motivate us. He always painted his face, either camouflage or tiger-striped. He'd yell at us in Spanish and English, even though most of us didn't know what he was saying."

By the end of his college career, he had racked up 300 total tackles (No. 3 all-time at Cal Poly), five sacks and three interceptions. He earned the respect of his teammates, coaches and fans.

And he earned the admiration of the children of Earlimart and Delano, who would ride a bus for hours to Cal Poly just to see the local boy hit someone on Saturdays.

Andre Patterson, Orozco's former college coach, said he was ready to play from the day he arrived on campus.

"He was a tremendous kid," Patterson, who now coaches defensive line with the Cleveland Browns, said in an interview by telephone. "He had no fear, but he was so much a people person. Everyone looked up to him. I wasn't surprised to learn that he had joined the Army."

Serving his country was higher on his list than chasing professional football dreams, his friends said. He was proud to be a soldier. Proud to be fighting for freedom.

"We get a lot of students without physical training," said Maj. Paul Buechner, an Army ROTC instructor at Cal Poly. "And Osbaldo would help every one of them, yelling encouragement and pushing them hard. He led by example."

"It's difficult to lose a soldier," said Brig. Gen. Thomas Bostick, assistant division commander of the 1st Cavalry, which shares Fort Hood with Osbaldo's 4th Infantry Division. "But I never expected to see so many people show up here. I knew he was well-liked in his community, but I am overwhelmed with the amount of people here."

An American flag draped the silver and chrome casket holding Orozco's body as it sat at the front of the church, surrounded by flowers and pictures.

After the ceremony, seven ROTC cadets stood at attention as Orozco's brothers -- dressed in gray shirts and black pants and wearing white gloves -- carried the coffin out of the church.

A line of cars more than a mile long formed as the procession made the 10-mile journey to Delano. The cars wound through a landscape of green grapevines and orchards where he had worked alongside his family while growing up.

At the Delano Cemetery, the seven cadets raised their rifles and fired three shots in unison -- a 21-gun salute. A lone trumpeter played taps. A Kern County firetruck hung a gigantic American flag from its ladder. A flag at the Veteran of Foreign Wars memorial, near where Orozco is buried, flew at half-staff.

Mayra Orozco wore her husband's dog tags next to a cross around her neck. She stood solemn, hiding her eyes behind a pair of dark sunglasses.

Cadets took the flag off the casket and slowly folded it, gently handing it to the widow.

She sat facing her husband's casket, clutching the flag. Orozco's mother, Reyes, sat next to her.

Orozco's four brothers took off their white gloves and white carnations. They folded the gloves and placed their flowers on top. One by one, they placed them atop the casket.

Mayra and Reyes stood up and gently held two white doves. They tossed them into the air.

A Marine in full dress saluted. An Army general wept.

The reporter can be reached at jplemons@fresnobee.com or 622-2409.

 

From the Modesto, CA Bee:

Love essential to observing Memorial Day


Published: May 26, 2003, 06:35:11 AM PDT


An Army general wept this month at the funeral of Army 1st Lt. Osbaldo Orozco of Earlimart in Tulare County, the San Joaquin Valley's first fatality in the war with Iraq.

More than 800 people gathered for Orozco's funeral May 7, among them Brig. Gen. Thomas Bostick, assistant division commander of the 1st Cavalry, which shares Fort Hood with Orozco's 4th Infantry Division.

"It's difficult to lose a soldier," said Bostick. "But I never expected to see so many people show up here. I knew he was well-liked in his community, but I am overwhelmed with the amount of people here."

That affection is the essence of Memorial Day. While we pay our respects to veterans in a general way with our formal ceremonies, brass bands and hundreds of flying flags, at the heart of this day of remembrance are individual faces of soldiers -- fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, friends -- and the people who love them and miss them.

The poignancy is all the more acute this year with so many of the valley's loved ones called to duty in Iraq. Fortunately, hundreds of our warriors have already returned home safely -- alive and victorious, jubilant at the welcoming sight of their family and friends.

But in this war, like all others before it, there is a tremendous price to pay and this year the valley has paid with the life of Orozco, a most promising and inspiring young man. A star football player in high school and college, he was a son of immigrants who went on to graduate from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He was team captain and voted most inspirational player. The university held a memorial service in his honor.

After his funeral in Earlimart, a stream of cars more than a mile long formed the procession to Delano Cemetery, where he was buried.

That was a dramatic demonstration of the love of one community for its fallen son. Yet it is a picture that is repeated time and again throughout our nation's history.

Losing the lives of some of our loved ones is the price we must be willing to pay for our liberty. On Memorial Day and every day, we owe much to the Orozcos among us for being willing to die protecting us.

Like the tearful Army general at Orozco's funeral, we should never harden our hearts to the significance of that self-sacrifice.

Osbaldo Orozco

Date of Birth: March 19, 1977
Hometown: Earlimart, CA
Major at Cal Poly: Social Science
(Graduated June 16, 2001)
Married: Mayra Mendez Orozco, 2001
Military Service: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army
(4th Infantry Division)
Died: Saturday, April 26, 2003, Tikrit, Iraq

Football career at Cal Poly (1995-99): 300 total tackles (No. 3 all-time at Cal Poly), 136 solo tackles, 23 tackles for 64 lost yards, five sacks, three interceptions.

1999 (Senior) -- Third on the Mustangs in total tackles with 79, including 41 solo tackles ... seven tackles for a loss of 21 yards and one sack ... intercepted one pass and returned it 24 yards ... 12 tackles vs. Youngstown State ... strong and physical player who likes to hit ... fills holes well ... tough to block ... aggressive player who has a nose for the ball ...preseason honor candidate by I-AA Independents ... named teamıs Most Inspirational Player.

1998 (Junior) -- Voted "Linebacker of Year" by teammates ... led team with 98 total tackes and a team-high 46 unassisted tackles ... six tackles for a loss ... played in 10 games ... did not play in final game vs. Liberty ... 12 tackles vs. Northern Arizona to earn I-AA Independent Weekly honors ... followed that game with 14 tackles in week two at Sacramento State ... season-high 16 tackles vs. UC Davis (No. 10 all-time at Cal Poly) ... had season-best eight solo tackles at Portland State ... finished with ten tackles against the Vikings including three for a loss ... had 13 tackles at Southern Utah, six assisted.

1997 (Sophomore) -- Led defense with 106 tackles, third-most ever in school history ... First-Team I-AA Independent selection ... 14 tackles vs. W. Montana ... 11 tackles vs. Western New Mexico ... 10 vs. Northern Iowa ... 9 tackles and 1 interception vs. Liberty ... INT vs. Sac State.

1996 (Freshman) -- 17 tackles, five solo and 12 assisted ... four for a loss of 16 yards ... forced one fumble and one sack ... four tackles vs. St. Mary's, three for a loss of 13 yards, including a sack ... had four tackles vs. Western Illinois.

1995 -- Redshirt.

High School -- Played for coach Jamie Robles at Delano High School ... All-League First-Team ... All-Area .. First-Team All-State.

Personal -- Son of Jorge and Reyes Orozco ... brothers George, Johnny, Andy, and Ozzie ... benches 350 and squats 525 ... member of Cal Poly's ROTC program and MEXA ... one of two Cal Poly students selected to represent the University at the NCAA Leadership Conference held in Orlando, FL. in May 1999 .

Osbaldo Orozco

Photo and information taken from the
Cal Poly Athletics
Website:

http://www.calpolymustangs.com/index.html

 

 

Officials at Cal Poly have retired the number 45, Osbaldo Orozco's number.
It is the first number ever retired at that school.

 

 

Osbaldo Orozco at Cal Poly

 

 

 

In Memory of Osbaldo Orozco

Destined for the Battlefield

Osbaldo Orozco wanted to be a soilder long before he came to Cal Poly. After watching "Rambo" as kids, he and his brothers
would use broomsticks and knives to attack a make-believe enemy soldier -- a cactus in their back yard.

Indeed, some would say Orozco was destined for the battlefield, where he died April 26, 2003, on the front lines of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Cal Poly officials held a public memorial May 22, 2003, at the campus' War Memorial Plazza to honor the 26-year old alumnus
and U.S. Army First Lieutenant.

"Baldo", as his friends called him, died when the Bradley fighting vehicle he commanded rolled over while rushing to help other American soldiers
under attack near Tikrit in northern Iraq.

At the memorial service, a few hundred people -- including family, veterans, students, and past teammates -- remembered the former school football star
who was commissioned as an Army officer on June 16, 2001, the same day he earned his bachelor's degree in social science.

As the late afternoon sun reflected off the bronze Mustang Statue, school officials added the 64th name to the plaque below that honors Cal Poly students
who died on the battlefield. Orozco's mother and wife gripped each other's hands throughout the service and wiped their tears
with white tissues through the playing of "Taps".

Speaker after speaker talked about a big, muscular man full of enthusiasm and passion for his family, school, football team and the Army.

Former football teammate Steve Prejean recalled that Orozco was so proud of his Mexican heritage that he would blare mariachi music
from his pickup and sing along.

Prejean also recollected how fired up his old teammate was on the gridiron. "Here we were on a hot day in August during double days (practices)."
Prejean said, "and Baldo is talking as if he wasn't hot and didn't have an extra 10 pounds of pads on his body. The guy was full of energy.

Orozco was known for his pregame ritual of applying black war paint to his face. He earned All-American horors as a linebacker for the Mustangs
and finished his career in 1999 with 300 tackles -- then third on the team's all-time list.


He brought that same passion to academics, said business professor Colette Frayne.

She remembered the first day she met Orozco, when she tried to tutur 30 football players after they were exhausted from an afternoon practice.

"Most of the players wanted to be somewhere else", Frayne said. "But Baldo sat front and center and said, 'Hi, I'm Baldo. Bring it on".

The whole room erupted in laughter, until the 225-pound Orozco turned around and said, "Hey, be nice to her, man. She's trying to help us out".

Towards the end of the memorial service, Orozco's former teammates gave his wife, Mayra, a framed No. 45 green-and-gold Cal Poly football jersey.
Lt. Col. Norma Tovar, a Cal Poly military science professor, also presented her with Bronze Star and Purple Heart awards.

Orozco -- who grew up in Earlimart in Tulare County -- served in the university's ROTC program.
He was the first member of his family to graduate from college.

He went on to command a platoon in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they gaurded Al Qaeda prisoners.

After he returned from Iraq, Orozco and his wife were to start a family.

His brother, Andy Orozco, planned to enroll in a college ROTC program and become an officer. "It pumps me up even more
and add gasoline to the fire." said the 18 year-old, who along with his three brothers wore black No. 45 armbands.

Another brother, Jorge Orozco, 28, said he was proud that "Baldo" fought for his country but saddened to lose his best friend.

"It's war, and it's going to happen," he said. "There's a price to pay for freedom, And unfortunately, it cost us our brother."

The Cal Poly Athletics Department will honor the memory of Orozco with an award given perpetually to the student-athlete who exemplifies
what he represented; leadership, outstanding personal achievement, the ability to overcome obstacles, commitment and someone
who reflects sacrifice. The Orozco Inspirational Award is presented at the Night of the Mustang to deserving student-athletes as deemed appropriate.
The first recipient of the award in 2004 was fresman defensive end Chris White.

 

From the blog: Any Given Saturday

 

 

May 29, 2003

From the San Luis Obispo Tribune:

....Athletic director John McCutcheon also announced the Osbaldo Orozco Memorial Award, in memory of the Cal Poly linebacker who was recently killed in the line of duty near Tikrit, Iraq, will be handed out perpetually beginning next year. The award will be given for leadership and outstanding achievement. Orozco played football at Cal Poly from 1995 through 1999 and served as a 1st Lieutenant in the Army with the 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas.

**********************

 

 

The grave marker for Osblado Orozco

Photo by: William Tatum from the Find A Grave website

 

Birth: Mar. 19, 1977
Delano
Kern County
California, USA
Death: Apr. 25, 2003, Iraq

Army 1st Lt. Orozco was assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas.
Orozco died while near a checkpoint under fire in Tikrit. He was killed when his Bradley tank flipped over while traveling through
rough terrain as it was responding to enemy fire and maneuvered into position to return fire. His unit was the quick reaction force.
Osbaldo was born to Jorge and Reyes Orozco, the second of five sons. Raised in Earlimart, he attended Earlimart Elementary
and Middle Schools and was a 1995 graduate of Delano High School, where, on the football field, he proved himself a natural leader.
Osbaldo played varsity football for three years, making all-valley, all-area and all-state teams. At 6-foot-one, 225 pounds his senior year,
he was recruited by many colleges, but chose Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where he attended on full football scholarship.
Easy going off the field, but relentless on, Osbaldo was named to the NCAA Division 1-AA Independent first team his sophomore year
and racked up 300 total tackles by the end of his college career. Osbaldo joined the ROTC while at Cal Poly and fell in love
with the rigors and discipline of military life. He earned his commission as an officer in the U.S. Army on June 16, 2001,
the day he graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in social sciences. Osbaldo married Mayra Mendez the week following graduation
and the couple moved to Fort Benning, Georgia, where they lived 11 months, then moved to Fort Hood, Texas, where he joined
the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment and trained to lead Bradley fighting vehicles into battle. Mayra spoke with pride of her husband
and his love for her, his parents, his country and his cat, "Estrellita," which is Spanish for "little star." "He loved that cat so much,"
his wife said. "He found her at (an animal shelter) and bought her a bow and a little bell to wear. After the Army, he thought
he would go into the FBI or the CIA. His men adored him and respected him. He was ready to go and do his job. They all were."


Burial:
North Kern Cemetery
Delano
Kern County
California, USA

 

**********************

 

LT Osbaldo Orozco

 

 

 

On 5th anniversary of death, the Orozco family remembers their son and brother

BY FELIX DOLIGOSA, Californian staff writerfdoligosa@bakersfield.com

EARLIMART — A blue eagle flapping its wings adorns George Orozco Jr.’s upper left arm.

His younger brother, Osbaldo Orozco, sported the same ink when he died fighting in Iraq on April 25, 2003.

 

“Sometimes I feel like giving up on life,” said the older brother as he rubbed his left arm Wednesday. “He was my best friend.”

Five years after the death of “Baldo,” the Orozcos still struggle with their loss.

Orozco excelled on the football field and was the first one in his family to graduate college.

“One day it’s all nice and sunny. The sun’s out for you and everything’s perfect,” the older brother said.

Orozco was going to work in law enforcement. He was going to start a family. He was going to make it.

“And the next second, it can get dark and cold and you feel lonely,” the brother said.

Since his brother’s death, George Orozco Jr. has been locked up in jail, became distant with his family and lost his home.

The eagle tattoo is a scar that has never healed.

After his brother was killed, George Orozco got a tattoo that duplicated the one Osbaldo had.
It is one of the ways he tries to honor his brother's memory.

Photo by John Harte / The Californian

 

FEELS LIKE 'THE FIRST DAY'

Photographs of Army 1st Lt. Osbaldo Orozco and dozens of his awards cover the walls and fill up book shelves
in the corner of his family’s living room.

Among the football jerseys and newspaper clippings, one photo shows a smiling Orozco flexing his arms atop a tank in Iraq.
It’s time stamped 4/23/2003.

Two days after the photo was taken, Orozco was crushed to death when a Bradley fighting vehicle he was riding in rolled over.
The 26-year-old soldier was the first from the San Joaquin Valley to die in Iraq.

“It’s like the world turned completely around,” Jorge Orozco, the soldier’s father, said in Spanish.

Five years later, the world is still spinning for the Orozcos.

The father said, today feels “like it’s the first day” his son died.

FOOTBALL, THEN THE ARMY

Jorge and Reyes Orozco moved to this small town of Earlimart located just north of the Kern County line 33 years ago
to make a better life for their kids.

The parents worked on grape farms to support their five boys, George, Osbaldo, Johnny, Andy and Ozzie.

“There’s nothing in this little town,” George Orozco Jr. said. “We used to get in trouble all the time.”

They turned to football.

“You could hit somebody and not get in trouble,” George Orozco Jr. said.

Since he started playing in the third grade, Osbaldo Orozco excelled.

The 6-foot-1-inch linebacker and fullback starred on the Delano High School football team and earned all-area,
all-valley and all-state teams honors.

He also earned a four-year football scholarship at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.

Instead of following his dream of playing pro, Orozco followed his other childhood dream. After ROTC in college,
he joined the Army in 2001.

He then married his high school sweetheart, Mayra Mendez. She later remarried and declined to be interviewed for this story.

Before they could start a family, Orozco shipped out to Iraq.

“I didn’t want him to go,” Johnny Orozco said. “He was a leader. Why not go?”

ON THE 5-YEAR ANNIVERSARY

Family gathered at Orozco’s grave Friday afternoon as shadows crept over the North Kern Cemetery in Delano.

Guitar strings and accordion keys played in harmony.

George Herrera, a high school friend of Orozco, stared at his buddy’s headstone as he sang, “Un gran amigo” or a great friend.

Relatives recited a rosary and some drank beer.

“We do this every year to remember him,” George Orozco Jr. said.

Osbaldo Orozco is memorialized by this long mural just a few blocks from his home in Earlimart.

Photo by John Harte / The Californian

 

 

THE AFTERMATH

A colorful mural brightens up a dusty street just northeast of the Orozcos’ home.

On the painting, Orozco in his green Cal Poly Mustangs football uniform stands next to the glowing light of the Virgin Mary.

“He was there (in Iraq) for only two weeks,” George Orozco Jr. as he struggled to hold back tears.

To cope, the oldest brother hung out with the wrong crowd.

His wife left with their three kids. He couldn’t afford his house. He couldn’t talk to anyone in his family.

George Orozco Jr. was then arrested for felony evading after he led police on a high speed chase.

“I let go of everything,” he said.

As George Orozco Jr. sat in his jail cell, he thought.

“This ain’t me. My brother wouldn’t want this for me.”

'YOU DO WHAT YOUR OLDER BROTHER DOES'

Andy Orozco, 25, played football and is currently playing at Bethel University in Kansas.

Ozzie Orozco, 18, is a senior at Delano High School and plans to play football at Santa Maria College next year.

Johnny Orozco, 29, played football at Santa Maria College and later Alabama State University in Montgomery, Ala.

“You want to do what your older brother does,” Johnny Orozco said. “If I hadn’t gone to school, I would always hear it from him.
It would be his foot putting it in my rear end.”

Even though Osbaldo left them, the Orozcos say they are even closer.

They often share stories like the time when Orozco and George got in trouble with their dad for using machetes to slice his cactuses.
They’re known to gather at his graveside with a television and watch Raiders’ games.

Below the eagle tattoo on George Orozco Jr.’s arm, is another reminder of his brother.

It reads, “no fear.” It’s what Orozco always told him on the football field.

Since his run-in with the law, George Orozco Jr. is living a better life.

He now works as a welder and takes every opportunity to see his kids. He lives at his parents’ home, but doesn’t mind
because it gives him more time with his family.

“The hurt and the pain are still there,” he said. “I could hear him in the background –– ‘Don’t give up. You gotta keep on going.’”

 

From The Bakersfield Californian

 

**********************

 

 

The uniform of 1st LT Orozco on display at the
National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia.

 

The dog tags of 1st LT Orozco on display at the
National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia.
The circular disc attached to the dog tag chain is a 22nd Infantry coin
presented to members of 1st Battalion 22nd Infantry
by the 22nd Infantry Regiment Society
prior to the unit's deployment to Iraq in 2003.

 

**********************

 

For tributes to Lieutenant Osbaldo Orozco, click on the following links:

 

Fallen Heroes of Operatioin Iraqi Freedom

 

Legacy.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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