|From The Orange County Register ocregister.com
O.C. soldier killed in Iraq returned to U.S.
By JOSHUA SUDOCK / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Spc. Jose A. Torre, Jr., 21, of Garden Grove was killed in action Jan. 15 while serving in Operation New Dawn in Baghdad, the Defense Department reported Monday.
Torre died of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with a rocket-propelled grenade, according to the Defense Department. Torre served with the Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.
Torre's body was returned to the United States Tuesday morning aboard a military transport. He was met by his parents, Jose and Candida Torre, and an Army carry team at Dover Air Force Base, in Delaware.
The Associated Press described the transfer ceremony as dignified.
According to Torre's father, the family expects to be back in Orange County Tuesday evening.
Operation New Dawn is the name given to the United States' ongoing combat operations in Iraq by the Obama administration in 2010, when the administration declared an end to "major combat operations" in that country.
Such name changes are not uncommon. The 1991 Persian Gulf War changed as the mission changed: from Operation Desert Shield to Operation Desert Storm and then finally to Operation Southern Watch and Operation Northern Watch.
Please check back for more information, photos of Spc. Torre and upcoming memorial services.
Please contact the writer if you knew Torre and would like to contribute to our reporting of this story.
|From The Orange County Register ocregister.com
Hundreds gather to honor fallen Garden Grove soldier
Spc. Jose A. Torre, 21, a Pacifica High School graduate, who died from injuries suffered in an insurgent attack in Iraq, was brought back home Tuesday.
By DEEPA BHARATH / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Jennifer Sievers stood on the pavement wiping tears from under her sunglasses on a warm, sunny Tuesday morning.
The ceramics teacher was one face among those who lined nearly a half mile of Lampson Avenue outside Pacifica High School in Garden Grove with their hands over their hearts to welcome home a fallen soldier – Spc. Jose A Torre Jr.
Torre, 21, a Garden Grove resident and 2007 Pacifica graduate, died Jan. 15 from injuries after insurgents attacked his unit with a rocket-propelled grenade in Baghdad. Torre was assigned to the Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas.
At 10:35 a.m. Tuesday, an airplane brought a casket bearing Torre's body to the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos. His family members walked over to the flight line to a cart on which the casket was placed, draped with the Stars and Stripes.
Torre's family members stood around the casket while his grandfather became emotional, leaned over and rested his head on the casket for a minute.
A hearse then drove through Pacifica High School where all the students lined the street to pay their respects to the fallen hero, who was one of them not too long ago. The hearse stopped briefly outside the school while the band played the alma mater. Members of the varsity wrestling team, which Torre was a part of during his time in Pacifica, stood up front.
Sievers, who had Torre for a year in her ceramics class, said she was shocked when she heard the news.
"I'm his Facebook friend and talked to him just two weeks ago," she said. "I logged on to see if it was true – and it was."
She described Torre as talkative, friendly and outgoing.
"He was a loud presence in any room," she said, smiling through her tears.
Alicia Duncan, a Spanish teacher at Pacifica who taught Torre for three years, said he was one of those teens who turned his life around.
"He had his issues like most teens, but his junior and senior years, he really matured and became focused," she said. "He was a man at 15. Why does it always have to be the kid who is pulling his life back together?"
Torre wrote to her two days before he died saying that he was looking forward to coming back home. Duncan said Torre wrote he was leaving for home in a couple of days and she promised to send him a picture of the snow-capped mountains.
Torre's younger sister, Laura, also graduated from Pacifica. So he often came to visit, said Amy Bowman, his guidance counselor.
"He came in a couple of times in his fatigues," she said. "He was very proud of serving. He told me he was very happy doing what he was doing. I got the sense that he belonged and was part of something bigger."
Laura Herzog, spokeswoman for the Joint Forces Training Base, told students gathered around her that the Torre family is overwhelmed by the support they have received from the community and from Pacifica High School.
"(Torre's) mother told me that this wonderful community support has made it possible for them to deal with this tremendous loss," she said.
Family members did not comment.
Also present at the base was Marlon Chinchilla, brother of 22-year-old Yorba Linda native, Marine Cpl. Claudio Patino IV, who was killed in Afghanistan's Helmland Province June 22. Chinchilla said he came to show his family's support for the Torre family.
"My mother and I are here to show this family that they are not alone," he said, choking back tears.
Chinchilla said he had to deal with feelings of anger, disbelief and hopelessness that he would never see his brother ever again.
"It's never easy to lose a loved one like this," he said. "But you can deal with it one day at a time."
|From The Los Angeles Times latimes.com
Army Spc. Jose A. Torre Jr., 21, Garden Grove; killed in rocket attack in Baghdad
The combat engineer was on his second deployment. He had joined the military after high school and, friends and relatives say, approached it the way he did anything — without fear.
March 13, 2011|By Nicole Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times
When Jose A. Torre Jr. was in elementary school, his Sunday school teacher challenged him to memorize the names of all 66 books in the Bible.
"He not only learned them forwards, but he learned them backwards," recalled Steve Baeder, 61, a pastor at West Cypress Church in Cypress.
Torre, who was called "Joey" during his childhood, was always up for a challenge, his relatives and friends said. He was an all-or-nothing type of guy, one who was rambunctious, full of energy and always smiling. He joined the military after high school and approached it the way he did anything — without fear.
The Army specialist from Garden Grove was killed Jan. 15 when his unit was attacked with a rocket-propelled grenade in Baghdad. He was assigned to the Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division at Ft. Riley, Kan.
Torre, a combat engineer, was on his second deployment. He was 21.
He entered the military as an energetic, fun-loving boy with an easy smile, and died a man, several close to him said.
As a child, at church camp, he liked to start snowball fights and remove plywood planks from bunk beds, sending people crashing to the floor. He pretended to be a bear and scared girls at the camp, including his sister, Laura-Lynn, now 19.
"That was his life's mission, was to bother me," she said last week, as she sat in the family living room. She wore a gray sweatshirt featuring the insignia of her brother's battalion.
In high school, he often cracked jokes in class. He frequently stopped by the counseling office to chat or to ask about his sister, said Amy Bowman, head counselor at Pacifica High School, where he graduated in 2007.
She described Torre as a "quick-witted jokester with a heart of gold."
Torre was athletic. He played T-ball as a 4-year-old because his father persuaded officials to let him in the league. He was a scrawny Pop Warner football player who wasn't afraid of the bulkier players. And during high school, he lived and breathed wrestling because his father, Jose A. Torre, was a former wrestler.
Tom Pone, Torre's wrestling coach during his freshman and sophomore years, said the student stood out because he couldn't get enough. If he lost, he would ask Pone what he could do better. He graduated with the most wins of any team member in his senior year.
"He wanted to learn everything I could teach him," the coach said.
Torre was a sports fan. He called his father almost every Sunday to talk about NASCAR races. He was a Yankees fan, and one of his dreams was to see the Dallas Cowboys play on Thanksgiving Day in Cowboys Stadium, his relatives said.
He came from a close family, one that frequently went on camping trips and played board games. His relatives had to play card games with multiple decks because Torre was so good at counting cards, his sister said.
Torre also was generous. He was known for cooking for other soldiers he served with at Ft. Riley. And he bought airline tickets for at least two friends when they couldn't afford it, said his mother, Candida Torre.
After his first deployment, Torre seemed more serious, those close to him said. The military had tested him. He was more organized, and called people "ma'am" and "sir."
His mother remembers attending Torre's military graduation at Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri and feeling intensely proud.
"It was just amazing to see him transform into the young man he became," she said. "He didn't look like that little punky kid."
When his remains arrived home from Iraq last month, hundreds of people lined the streets outside Pacifica High. Some stood with their hands over their hearts. His mother has started a penny drive for the United Service Organization, a nonprofit that provides services to members of the military.
In addition to his father, mother and sister, Torre is survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Robert and Ashley Rodriguez; a nephew, Preston Rodriguez; and his grandparents, Jose C. Torre and Robert and Dorothy Figueroa. He was buried Jan. 28 at Riverside National Cemetery.