Jake R Velloza
May 2, 2009
Killed, when shot by enemy forces in Mosul, Iraq.
Yesterday, we received devastating news that Jarrid's cousin Jake Velloza was killed in Iraq. He had been in the Army for 2 years and this was his second mission to Iraq, his position was a 13F Forward Observer- Steel on Steel He was only was only 23 years old, far too young. He was recently engaged to Danielle and they were planning their wedding. He was due home in December. We will miss Jake so much and feel blessed to have shared many holidays with him. We last saw Jake on Thanksgiving in Pt. Reyes. He mentioned then that he would be deploying soon to a very dangerous part of Iraq where the causalities had been quite high, he said that he was nervous but there was not much you could do. He was a brave young man and sacrificed his life to protect ours. We thank him and will never forget him. We love you Jake!
|From The Martin Independent Journal marinij.com
West Marin prepares for military funeral
|From The Mercury News MercuryNews.com
Marin soldier killed in Iraq
Jake Velloza, who grew up in Inverness, died near the entrance to a combat outpost 12 miles south of Mosul, Iraq on Saturday. He was 22.
“I went numb when I heard the news,” said Jake’s third- and fourth-grade teacher, Fred Gilardi.
Jake was born on June 21, 1986 in Santa Rosa to Susan and Bob Velloza. He was their only child. He attended West Marin School and Tomales High. Gilardi remembers a sweet-hearted, quiet, compassionate child. “Jake had a really caring attitude with all the other students,” he said. Friends remember an oft-rambunctious classmate who spent a lot of time banished to the hall. All recall that he excelled in athletics.
At a track meet in middle school, he won the long jump, the high jump, the dash, and a couple sprints, breaking several school records. “Then later that night he pitched a no hitter,” said his teammate, Tristan Keady, “and it wasn’t even hard for him. I never saw him train. But he was really humble about it. Never bragged.”
Jake preferred technical to academic work. Like his father, he became a proficient mechanic. “He knew everything you could imagine about cars, woodworking, metal work,” his friend Jay Borodic said. He took shop classes all four years of high school. In auto shop, he repaired an entire stack of derelict
motors sitting in the corner, getting them all running by the end of the term.
When he was 15, Jake welded together an aluminum motor scooter. He rode it out to Limantour Beach, wearing a giant ‘Where’s Waldo’ hat. Then he decided he was going to drive it all the way back to the Borodics’ place in Olema. He had no license, and the vehicle was illegal. As he passed the Farm House, a cop pulled out behind him. Jake continued on up the hill in his hat, making it all the way into his friend’s driveway before the cop caught up. He cited Jake 15 times. The judge dismissed all the charges, laughing.
While working on his senior project with Emil Kempf, Jake discovered an affinity for photography. The friends collaborated to produce a travel guide of Point Reyes’ natural attractions, spending long hours away from class hiking around the seashore with cameras. “He took amazing nature shots,” Keady said.
“That was a side of him I hadn’t seen before,” said Ashley Williams, “an artsy side.”
Though Jake had wanted to join the Army since elementary school, his parents were unenthusiastic about the prospect. Susan was especially worried. She asked him to wait a year after he graduated before joining, to take time to mature and consider his decision. He obliged her, working as a water meter reader in Petaluma, helping to remodel a bakery in Fairfax, and taking photography classes at College of Marin. But the Army offered a pride of purpose that odd jobs around town could never equal.
“The Army was his forte,” Jared Mendoza said, “he tried other things, but he always knew he was going to join, no matter what.”
“We all kind of hoped that by the end of the year he would be in a job, maybe have a girlfriend,” Keady said. But the year came and passed, and in early 2006, Jake started visiting recruiting centers and training events.
“I just woke up one day and went to talk to a couple of old recruiters,” Jake told the Light from Fort Hood, Texas, in February of 2008, “by the end of that month, I was in the military.”
“He just came home from work one day, two hours late,” said Kempf, his housemate at the time. “He said he’d just signed the papers to join the Army. He didn’t warn anyone. I don’t even think his parents were a big part of the decision process.”
“I think the real reason he joined was fear of the future,” Kempf added.
Jake hoped the Army would teach him a job skill for which he already had an aptitude, maybe welding or electrical wiring. They taught him to sight targets for artillery raids.
“They kind of sold him on the idea that he could do what he wanted,” Mendoza said, “and they ended up having him do what they wanted.”
“They lie to get you to enlist,” Jake told the Light last February. “They lie big time.”
“We didn’t think it was the right decision, but we knew Jake would do a tremendous job at it,” Borodic said. “We all had that itching in the backs of our heads that this could be the worse situation imaginable. But those were the circumstances that Jake signed up for.”
When Jake finished basic training, he was gung-ho about the service, though he never agreed with the war. He spent his first tour as a spotter in Baghdad, riding around in the turrets of tanks and Humvees, enduring experiences that he said bonded him to his fellow soldiers like a brother. He didn’t talk about it much when he was home.
By January of last year, when he returned to Inverness from his first tour, he had become disillusioned, telling Kempf that he was sick of the military and sick of George Bush. Then he went back to Fort Hood for nine months of training. There, Jake discovered Danielle Erwin, a woman from Indiana who lived on base with her sister. Within months he fell madly in love. “When he fell in love with a girl he was the kind of guy who let everyone know,” Chelsea Simms said, “he didn’t keep any secrets.”
In November, Jake came back for another furlough, introducing Danielle to friends and family. Bob brought the couple to the top of the Golden Gate Bridge, courtesy of his position at Golden Gate Transit. It was a clear day. There, 750 feet above the bay, Jake proposed marriage. Danielle accepted. He placed a ring on her finger. “If you drop it,” he said, “it’s your fault.”
He looked around for potential future jobs in West Marin, because he always knew he’d return. But finding little opportunity, he re-enlisted for another three years. Jake shipped off to Iraq again in December, having regained confidence and enthusiasm. This time, the Army sent him to Mosul, the country’s most restive region.
Jake wrote on his Facebook page in March that he and Danielle had made wedding plans. Borodic expected to be his best man. “He expressed to me that she was the most wonderful girl he’d ever met,” he said.
Saturday, Jake and four fellow soldiers were resting in a house when a man dressed in American fatigues cracked the door slightly, stuck a rifle in and shot them. A bullet struck Jake in the neck, and he died quickly. One other soldier died, a further three sustained wounds, and a survivor immediately shot the attacker to death. The man was a Sunni preacher and war veteran, Iraqi officials said.
Sunday, Major Marlena DeCelle of the California National Guard drove from Travis Air Force Base to the Velloza household, arriving at 6 a.m. Point Reyes Presbyterian Church pastor Caroline Oswell met and accompanied her. A fellow soldier had already told the family that Jake had failed to call after his patrol, as he always did, and they’d heard rumors of an incident near Mosul. They were watching television anxiously when the pastor and the Major arrived.
“The officer conducted herself with great compassion,” Oswell said, “There’s nothing you can really do. We said a prayer.”
About 50 well-wishers stopped by the Velloza residence throughout the day. That night, Susan and Bob flew to Delaware to meet a flag-draped casket at Dover Air Force Base.
The last time she talked to Jake, Simms said, was two weeks ago. The Army was considering promoting him to Sargent. “He obviously had leadership qualities,” she said, “the type of personality that everyone could get along with.”
“I’m not able to grasp the fact that he’s gone,” she said. “It’s like I was just watching a movie with him last night, and now he’s gone.”
“To have lost such an amazing and caring soul is devastating,” she said.
A vigil for Jake starts at 7 p.m. on May 15 at St. Vincent's Church, in Petaluma. There will be a mass for him on May 16 at 10 a.m. at Sacred Heart Church, in Olema.
California’s War Dead
Jake R. Velloza, 22
Based: Ft. Hood, Texas
1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division
Supporting: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Died: May 2, 2009
High School: Tomales High (Tomales)
We talked about college, but he said, 'No, Coach, I want to be a Ranger doing special ops.' He was set on his goals. He was one of those young men who knew what he wanted to do and did it. Service to his country is what appealed to him.
— Leon Feliciano , high school football coach to San Jose Mercury News
Velloza was one of two U.S. servicemen shot and killed by two Iraqi soldiers near the northern city of Mosul. The attack wounded three others, the latest in a series of incidents involving security forces firing on Americans in the troubled area. Velloza, an only child, had been a standout athlete in high school, according to the San Jose Mercury News. His uncle told the newspaper that people flocked to the family home after news of his death. Army Spc. Jeremiah P. McCleery, 24, of Portola, Calif. also died in the shooting. A full obituary on both men will follow.
Point Reyes Light obituary on Velloza »
San Jose Mercury News story on Velloza's death »
Times story on attack that killed Velloza »
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