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Marine Lance Cpl. Sergio Escobar, 18, Pasadena; Killed in Roadside Bombing

October 23, 2005|Patricia Ward Biederman | Times Staff Writer

Lance Cpl. Sergio Escobar of Pasadena used to tell his father that a Marine who doesn't go to Iraq isn't a Marine. Escobar arrived in Iraq last month.

Stateside, he was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Twentynine Palms, Calif. As part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, his unit was attached to the 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).

On Oct. 9, Escobar was killed when a roadside bomb exploded during combat in Ramadi, west of Baghdad. He was 18.

A 2004 graduate of Rose City High School, he was a good student, said teacher Nancy Swartz.

He needed to finish a history course in summer school before he could get his diploma, and Swartz was his teacher. "He was a real fun-loving person" with genuine charisma, she said. "People liked being around him."

Not many Rose City graduates enter the military, Swartz said. But when Escobar signed up for the Marine Corps in September 2004, "he was so proud and so excited," she said.

Swartz said she knew that some of the adults in Escobar's life had tried to talk him out of joining the military in wartime.

"War is war, and people die, and you don't want your kids to be put in that position," she said. "But I don't even think he had a fear of that. That was something he was willing to risk as part of the package."

Ricardo Ortiz had been Escobar's de facto father since Ortiz fell in love with Escobar's mother, Patricia Escobar, when the boy was 4 years old.

Escobar, who was born in Orizaba, Mexico, always referred to Ortiz as Papi. "He was a real good boy," Ortiz said.

Escobar was especially devoted to his sister, Samantha, 6; and brother, Junior, 2.

When Escobar was in high school, besides playing football, he worked at Foot Locker. As a result, he was able to keep his younger siblings in the latest sneakers and sportswear.

He played with the children, read to them and helped Samantha with her homework.

Swartz remembers how devoted Escobar was to his family, especially Samantha. She is devastated by her brother's death, Ortiz said. She still asks when he is coming home.

Ortiz said the family tries to ease Samantha's pain.

At Escobar's funeral Oct. 19 at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, Hollywood Hills, they explained to her that he was being put in the earth "like a flower," Ortiz said.

On weekends, Escobar would make it a point to have breakfast or lunch with his family.

"That was his thing," Ortiz said. "He would say, 'I'll spend some time with you guys, and then I'll go out with my friends.' "

When he became a Marine, Escobar acquired a new group of friends whom he liked to bring home with him. "One time my truck was full of soldiers," Ortiz said with a chuckle. Escobar warned Ortiz to leave his mother at home so there would be room in the truck for half a dozen of his Marine buddies.

Escobar wanted to make the Marine Corps his career: "Honestly, he would always say he would never come out of the military," Ortiz said.

Since Escobar went to Iraq and couldn't socialize with his family on weekends, he would call home instead.

Ortiz last spoke to him Oct. 7, a few days before the bomb went off in Ramadi. "He told me, 'I'm OK. You don't have to worry about me. I'm coming home soon,' " Ortiz said. "Which he did."

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