Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gil (Carlos G.) Orozco reported killed in Iraq

Carlos Gil Orozco almost didn't become a Marine. He took the test twice - and failed. But the third time, he passed. And, two years ago, when he finally joined the military, his family said he was fulfilling a lifelong dream.

Sunday, the 23-year-old - who left behind an infant son he'd seen only in pictures and over the Internet - became the fifth South Bay serviceman killed at war during the past 2 1/2 months.

"He was kind of a troublemaker, you know, he got bad grades and wouldn't do his homework," said his sister, Myriam Johanna Gil Orozco. "But he wanted to be a Marine. So he studied real hard, especially algebra. He'd stay up all night studying. His eyes would be blurry."

The Defense Department confirmed in a statement Thursday that the San Jose man died during combat operations in Iraq's troubled Al-Anbar province, one of the front line's in President Bush's troop surge. Gil Orozco's family said his tank rolled over an explosive device, with the blast tearing his body into pieces. Funeral services for the Willow Glen High School graduate are pending as his family waits for his body to arrive home.

Gil Orozco died alongside Lance Cpl. Jon T. Hicks Jr., 20, of Atco, N.J. Both Marines were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Camp Lejeune, N.C.

"Since he was small, he always liked the Marines," his sister said. "He always liked little soldiers, swords, weapons, all kinds of that stuff. And he always wanted to defend his country."
Aside from his sister, Gil Orozco is survived by his parents, Myriam Orozco, 46, who works for an immigration attorney; his father, Carlos Gabriel Gil, 49, who has a manufacturing job at Tyco; his wife, Esmarelda Gil, 25, whom he met several years ago at a Cinco de Mayo festival; and two children, 5-year-old Carlos Alexander Gil Ibarrola, and 3-month-old Kenny Carlo Gil. Joining the Marines was a good thing for Gil Orozco, his parents thought. They moved to the United States in 1993 from Colombia - when Gil Orozco was eight - leaving behind a life of poverty, and hoping to give their children a good education. They were frustrated when he didn't do well in school and thought the Marines might just be a good thing for him.

"My mom wanted the best for him, " his sister said. "She never told him what to do. She never said, `Don't go.' That was his dream."

As for their father, Myriam said: "My dad was actually happy. He'd rather have him be a Marine than out on the streets being in gangs or doing drugs."

But the harsh reality of Gil Orozco's sacrifice proved especially upsetting for his parents Monday morning, when a group of Marines knocked on the family's door.

Gil Orozco's mother was just on her way to work when she saw the men in uniform. She broke down crying and "started going crazy," Gil Orozco's sister said. Then the Marines told her to call her husband and her daughter-in-law. "What am I supposed to tell them?" Myriam recounted her mother saying. "That your son died? Your husband died?"

When Carlos Sr. arrived home, he also couldn't control his emotions.

"My dad tried to hit the Marines," Myriam said. "He started hitting his head against the wall so hard that a vein broke in his forehead."

Gil Orozco was close to coming home for good. His sister said he was supposed to have returned home Nov. 2, and had planned to become a San Jose police officer.

He had last spoke with his family Saturday - the night before he was killed - and promised to call again right after his patrol.

Myriam said she can't believe she'll never hear her brother's voice again.

"I've cried so much that I don't have any more tears left," she said.

From the San Jose Mercury News