Ramon Mora Jr
May 22, 2011
Killed in Baghdad, Iraq, when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device.
Army Pfc. Ramon Mora Jr. honored in dignified transfer on May 24
|From The Los Angeles Times latimes.com 10/169/11:
Ramon Mora Jr. dies at 19; Army private first class from Ontario
Army Pfc. Ramon Mora Jr. was one of two soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.
October 16, 2011|By Paul Pringle, Los Angeles Times
Fresh out of high school, Ramon Mora Jr. saw no limits to his dreams: He could become a veterinarian. Or a stock market wizard. Maybe even an ace helicopter pilot.
"His mind was really open and clear," said his grandfather, Baltazar Mora of Ontario.
The elder Mora and his wife, Maria Theresa, helped raise their grandson for most of his life. His 19 years presented challenges at times, bumps in the road that he doggedly overcame — always determined, always looking forward.
He enlisted in the Army soon after graduating from Valley View High School in Ontario, with an eye on helicopter mechanic training.
As it happened, fixing choppers — and perhaps flying them — would have to wait. The teenager decided instead to become an infantryman with the 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based at Ft. Riley, Kan.
On May 22, Pfc. Ramon Mora was one of two soldiers killed by a roadside bomb that ripped into their Humvee in Baghdad.
"It was his day off," Baltazar Mora said. "He always wanted to drive a Humvee and they offered to let him drive that day. Normally his position was gunner up on top. The gunner that day survived."
The grandfather's voice thickened with grief: "He was an outstanding soldier who never quit and went out of his way to do extra for everybody."
Maria Theresa Mora struggled at length to speak through her tears. "I am very proud of him," she said.
The pain of Ramon Mora's loss is eased somewhat by the joyful memories the mere mention of his name summons for his loved ones.
"He would always put a smile on your face," said his cousin, Jessica Aguilar, 20. "He was never a down person. He was always in a good mood."
Aguilar said they were as close as brother and sister, and she turned to him whenever she needed a shoulder.
"It was mostly boy problems I would go to him about," she recalled, laughing. "He'd say, 'Let's go to the mall and I'll find someone for you.' "
Growing up, Mora was enchanted by critters — dogs and cats especially, but also spiders and nearly everything else that crawled or took wing. He talked about becoming a veterinarian long before the Army captured his imagination, although the military was in his blood.
Generations of the family have fought for flag and country, said his grandfather, a Marine for 11 years. Both of Ramon Mora's great-grandfathers served in the Army in World War II. One landed on the beaches of Normandy; the other was a medic taken prisoner by the Germans.
So the young man was rapt when Army recruiters stopped by Valley View High.
"They offered him vocational training as a helicopter mechanic," his grandfather said. "I told him that would be good because I was a mechanic all my life."
First, though, Mora had to knuckle down to complete high school.
He succeeded, and came to cherish academics, resolving that, eventually, he would earn a college degree. After that, he would take a crack at Wall Street, his latest dream.
Yet he couldn't shake the lure of the uniform, the idea that an Army stint would be a great way to jump-start adulthood. He signed up for five years. The family was a bit fearful but respected his choice.
"Obviously, I supported my cousin 100%," Aguilar said. "I always told him to be careful.... He loved the Army. He loved everybody over there. He never worried us. He told us everything was peaceful."
Baltazar Mora said military life transformed his grandson, whom he called Junior.
"Overnight, he was a totally different person," he said. "Very mature, very sure of what he wanted to do."
After boot camp, Mora felt confident enough about the future to get married. His wife, Amanda, would be widowed just seven months later.
Last Christmas, Mora's grandparents shipped him half a dozen boxes of treats.
"He called us and said he needed some more and we sent him some more," Baltazar Mora said. "He told us a lot of guys there didn't have families and didn't get packages and he wanted to share with them."
Ramon Mora's final trip home was in February, a respite he packed with outings to Disneyland and other amusement parks.
"Then Junior showed up at the house with a dog, an Alaskan husky — Bella, a puppy," his grandfather said. "He wanted us to take care of her until he came back in November.… We still have her."
Emotions welled, and he labored to continue: "He was also thinking about getting a motorcycle. We tried to talk him out of it. An intersection here is marked where a motorcyclist was killed by a truck. He saw that and kind of changed his mind and talked about getting a car.
"That's why he was so anxious to drive the Humvee, because he never got the chance to drive."
Recently, a letter addressed to Ramon Mora arrived at his home. It was from a business school confirming his enrollment in online courses, another step toward his dream.
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