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Army Sgt. Arthur A. Mora Jr., 23, Pico Rivera; Among 3 Killed by Roadside Bomb

November 20, 2005|Nancy Cleeland | Times Staff Writer

The e-mailed photos of his newborn son were fresh in his mind as Army Sgt. Arthur A. Mora Jr., a 23-year-old from Pico Rivera, set off on a routine patrol around Balad, Iraq, a normally calm region about two hours north of Baghdad.

He was driving, happy to be out in the field after weeks of office duty while nursing an injured foot, said his commanding officer, Capt. Phillip Poteet. "He could not stand to be on the receiving end of the radio from the rest of his platoon," Poteet said in an e-mail exchange. "He talked about it all of the time. I remember seeing how happy he was to start patrolling."

Mora, along with two other young soldiers, never returned from that Oct. 19 outing. About a mile from base, their Humvee was destroyed by a roadside bomb fashioned out of three artillery shells -- each one the size of a large fire extinguisher.

Mora was assigned to the 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Ft. Stewart, Ga. He left behind a wife and three children, including his only son, Christopher, who was born just a week earlier.

"Once his son was born, he wanted to come home. He was hoping to be back by Christmas," said his sister, Celia, of Montebello. "He saw him in e-mail pictures, but never got to hold him."

Mora was one of four children raised by a single mother and a large extended family. He was quiet and fun-loving, a video fanatic who "would always make people laugh," his sister recalled.

He was just 8 years old when a family outing to a small war memorial in South El Monte convinced him that his future was in the Army, she said. He never wavered, and enlisted within a month of graduating from El Rancho High School in 2000.

Mora found a second family in an infantry platoon at Ft. Benning, Ga., his commander recalled. The circle widened when Mora joined a carload of fellow recruits on a drive to a Detroit concert and stopped at a roadside restaurant in Ohio, where his future wife, Veronica, was waiting tables. The couple had a daughter, Celina, now 1 1/2 years old, as well as Christopher. Mora was in the process of adopting 4-year-old Olivia, his wife's daughter from a previous relationship.

Mora was buried in Ohio, near his wife's hometown. A memorial service in Pico Rivera drew about 200 family members and boyhood friends. Last week, his Army family planted a tree in Georgia in his name.

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