Pacific Daily News 05/23/07:
Two soldiers died with local
By David V. Crisostomo
Pacific Daily News
Army Pfc. Victor M. Fontanilla, originally from Tinian, was among three American soldiers killed in Iraq last week when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle.
He was 23.
The soldiers died last Thursday from wounds suffered in the explosion in Iskandariya, Iraq, the Defense Department confirmed.
The other two soldiers who died in the attack were: Sgt. 1st Class Jesse B. Albrecht, 31, of Hager City, Wis., and Spc. Coty J. Phelps, 20, of Kingman, Ariz.
The men were assigned to the 725th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Richardson, Alaska, the Defense Department said.
Fontanilla is the sixth war casualty from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands since 2001. He brings to 20 the total number casualties from Micronesia.
"Word of Pfc. Fontanilla's death, coming so close on the heels of the loss Spc. John Flores from Guam, heightens our sorrow, first as one island community, now as a community of sister islands," said Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo yesterday.
"This tragedy is not borne by Victor's family alone; the people of Tinian, Guam and all the other islands of the Marians grieve with them," Bordallo said.
"Although Mr. Fontanilla will be interred in California, his love for his home island never wavered," Bordallo said. "If not for his untimely passing, he might have fulfilled his dream to return and settle in Tinian."
Stockton soldier killed
23-year-old paratrooper was soon to become a proud father for the second time
By Daniel Thigpen
Record Staff Writer
May 22, 2007 6:00 AM
STOCKTON - Family members were surprised when Victor M. Fontanilla announced almost two years ago that he had decided to join the Army.
Then again, the move by the strong-willed, independent father and husband seemed to fit his personality.
"He was a self-supporting kid," said his aunt Lysia Espinosa, who raised Fontanilla at her Stockton home. "He wouldn't ask for anything."
Fontanilla, 23, and two other paratroopers were killed Thursday when a roadside bomb detonated near their vehicle in the central Iraq town of Iskandariya, about 25 miles from Baghdad, the Department of Defense announced Monday.
He was more than seven months into his first tour in Iraq, said Espinosa, 41, and just weeks away from coming home for a short leave to see his wife of two years, Noel, give birth to their second son.
Fontanilla and the other soldiers were assigned to the 725th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division in Fort Richardson, Alaska. Fontanilla was a motor transport operator for the unit.
A fourth paratrooper was seriously injured in the blast and was being treated at a combat hospital in Iraq, according to a news release from Fort Richardson.
Fontanilla's two MySpace pages show his two most recent passions - the military and his family. One page features tongue-in-cheek comments with pictures of him and Army buddies. Another dedicates the space to pictures of his young family and playtime with his son, Kila.
Fontanilla was born at San Joaquin General Hospital, his aunt said, and grew up in Stockton with his younger brother and two younger sisters. His parents live in Saipan, a tiny, U.S.-controlled island in the Pacific Ocean.
He left Stockton to live with his mother and finish high school on the nearby island of Tinian, a few miles from Saipan, Espinosa said.
He returned to Stockton when he was 18 and enrolled part time at San Joaquin Delta College while working at a fast-food restaurant.
He signed up for the Army to help support his growing family, Espinosa said. "To me, he's like a hero," she said.
Fontanilla's brother, 16-year-old Lee Castro, described his brother as a bright, multitalented young man who could play several musical instruments by ear and easily assemble electronics or build contraptions.
He taught Castro to play piano when they were younger. He enjoyed drawing anime-style cartoons.
Fontanilla was independent enough to succeed at most things he tried, his brother said.
"You could put him in a jungle and he could survive on his own," he said.
Funeral arrangements have not been finalized, Espinosa said, because the family is waiting for Fontanilla's body to be returned to California.
Fontanilla is the 21st member of the military with San Joaquin County ties to be killed in fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Record reporter Christian Burkin contributed to this article.