Monday, April 23, 2007

Michael M. Rojas dies of injuries from I.E.D.

A 2004 graduate of Clovis East High School was killed in Iraq on Tuesday.

Army Spc. Michael Rojas, 21, died while serving in Baghdad.

Mr. Rojas' father, David Esquivil, said his son had been in the Army for two years.

"He was really proud to be in the Army, and really proud to be doing what he was doing," Esquivil said. "I got a letter from him recently saying he was in Baghdad, and it was dangerous. He said he was looking forward to being back home, but was proud to be serving."

Mr. Rojas' mother, Debbie Apodaca, could not be reached for comment. His sister, Marissa Cordova, 15, a sophomore at Clovis East, said her family has had a hard time dealing with her brother's death.

"He was the only boy. There are four girls, but he was the only boy," Marissa said. "My parents, my sisters and I are all very sad right now."

Mr. Rojas was sent to Iraq in June 2006, Marissa said, and was scheduled to come home sometime this summer.

"He joined the Army," Marissa said, "because he wanted to do something big."

Marissa said that an Army casualty assistance officer was helping the family plan funeral services, but no date had been set.

Army officials said they could not confirm Mr. Rojas' death, or give any details. Army policy requires that officials wait 24 hours after the family has been notified before talking about any incident.

Kelly Avants, a spokeswoman for Clovis Unified, said school officials heard that Mr. Rojas had been killed Wednesday evening, and confirmed the news with his family.

"The students and the faculty were told this morning by [Clovis East] Principal Steve Martinez, and there was a moment of silence in his honor," Avants said. "Counselors were also made available."

Martinez, who arrived at Clovis East after Mr. Rojas graduated, said those who knew him spoke highly of the former football player.

"They said he was a good kid who really found his place in the military," Martinez said. "He was happy to be serving."

Mr. Rojas played football for four years at Clovis East, including two seasons on the varsity. As a senior, he played every game as a backup cornerback for a Timberwolves team that went 12-1 and won the Central Section Division I championship.

"He was a pretty good kid and a better-than-average athlete," Clovis East football coach Tim Murphy said. "He was a little bit of a lost soul, but I think football helped him prepare for the military and he came back rock solid. He knew what he wanted to do and was focused. He went out the most honorable way you could go out, but it's still a tragedy, just a shame."

From the Fresno Bee