Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Adrian Elizalde remembered

Family members of Sgt. 1st Class Adrian Elizalde will tell you the North Bend soldier became tough enough to be a Green Beret on wrestling mats in southern Oregon.

Elizalde and a soldier from Pennsylvania died Thursday when an improvised explosive device struck their vehicle near Al Aziziyah, southeast of Baghdad. Elizalde was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), out of Fort Lewis, Wash.

He is the 110th member of the U.S. military with ties to Oregon or southwest Washington to die in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan since the current conflict began.

The 30-year-old Elizalde was a Special Forces engineer sergeant and had been deployed to Iraq as part of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force -- Arabian Peninsula, according to Department of Defense officials.

Elizalde was born in San Diego, where his family lived for several years before moving to North Bend. He joined the Army in 1996, one year after graduating from North Bend High School.

"He just wanted to support and defend his country," said Jorge Elizalde, Adrian's father, in a telephone interview from Renton, Wash. "It was a way for him to go to college and get an education. That's also how he saw it."

Adrian Elizalde started wrestling at age 8, his father said, and became a standout. In high school, he eventually won a district championship in the 126-pound weight class, qualifying for the state tournament. The 5-foot-6 Elizalde reached the second round.

"He was a very disciplined person," Jorge Elizalde said. "Whatever he set his sights on, he went after it. He wanted to be the best at whatever he attempted."

According to military officials, Adrian Elizalde started his career as an infantryman with 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg, N.C. He later served as a Long Range Surveillance Detachment team leader with Company D, 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division.

In 2004, he was selected to attend the Special Forces Qualification Course at Fort Bragg to become a Special Forces engineer. There, he became a Green Beret in 2005 and was assigned to Fort Lewis in March 2006.

Adrian Elizalde's mother, Teresa, said Monday that her son -- the youngest of two children -- had a "sparkle" about him.

She said that he was serious about his military career and that he had talked about becoming a teacher after his stint in the Army. "He talked about being a science teacher and possibly a wrestling coach," she said.

Initially, the Defense Department's announcement of Adrian Elizalde's death created confusion among friends and family members. The original announcement said the dead soldier was from North Bend, Indiana.

From the Oregonian

Related Link:
Adrian M. Elizalde dies 'of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device'