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Army 1st Lt. Osbaldo Orozco

Died April 25, 2003 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom


26, of Delano, Calif.; assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment based in Fort Hood, Texas; killed when his vehicle rolled over while traveling through rough terrain. His unit was the quick reaction force and was responding to enemy fire.

Long before he died, Osbaldo Orozco was a hero in his hometown of Earlimart, Calif., a tiny farming community north of Fresno.

It wasn’t just that “Baldo” was a high school and college football star, or that he was the first in his family to graduate from college, or even that he had joined the Army as an officer. “He loved everybody, and everybody loved him,” said his brother, Jorge. “He was always the first one to say, ‘Hi.’ As soon as he came down the street, everyone knew Baldo, and he knew everyone.”

Orozco, 26, attended California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo on a full football scholarship.

As a sophomore, he earned the team’s third highest record ever for tackles. In his junior year, he led the team in tackles. In his senior year, he was voted the football team’s most inspirational player.

“His parents came to every game. They’d work in the fields in the morning, then they’d drive 2" hours to the coast to watch him play. Five or six times, his town loaded up buses with kids and they all came out to watch him play. His parents’ bosses in the fields would come out and watch him play. He was a hero in that town,” recalled college friend and teammate, Juan Gonzalez, now a high school counselor in San Jose.

Orozco graduated from college in 2001, received his Army commission and married his high school sweetheart. “He was someone who only comes along once in a long while,” his brother said. “I don’t have the words to say how important he was to us.”

— USA Today


Army 1st Lt. Osbaldo Orozco, 26, of Delano, Calif., was a star linebacker at Delano High School and later played football at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he attended on a full football scholarship. He was a captain for the Mustangs in 1999 and was named the team’s Most Inspirational Player.

He enrolled in Cal Poly’s ROTC program and was commissioned as an Army officer on June 16, 2001, the same day that he graduated from Cal Poly with a bachelor’s degree in social science. He was the second of five sons of Mexican immigrants and the first in his family to graduate from college.

Orozco died April 25 when his vehicle rolled over while traveling through rough terrain. His unit was the quick reaction force and was responding to enemy fire.

“After the Army, he thought he would go into the FBI or the CIA,” his wife, Mayra Orozco, said. “He had a real leadership quality.”

Her husband believed in the cause that he fought and died for, she said. “He thought we needed to stop terrorism and (Saddam) Hussein and what he was doing to his people,” she said. The only thing that frightened him was that he would miss the war and not be able to serve as platoon leader and Bradley commander.

“He commanded four Bradleys and he loved it,” she said. “His men adored him and respected him. He was ready to go and do his job. They all were.”

— Associated Press

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