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Army Pfc. Victor M. Fontanilla, 23, Stockton; among 3 killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq

June 17, 2007|Duke Helfand | Times Staff Writer

Victor Michael Fontanilla may have been just 23 years old, but he was a solid family man.

The Stockton native enlisted in the Army nearly two years ago to provide a future for his wife, Noel, and their infant son, Mykal-Christian Kila.

The Army private first class breezed through basic training and passed airborne instruction before being deployed last fall to Iraq, where he served as a motor transport operator.

Fontanilla kept in close touch with his family, adding pictures and tributes to his wife and son on his page.

He had planned to return home June 4 on leave midway through his 15-month deployment. He wanted to be with his wife for the birth of their second son, Jonathan-Tobias Ho'Opakele Fontanilla.

He never made it.

On May 17, Fontanilla was among three paratroopers killed when a roadside bomb exploded near their Humvee in Iskandariya, south of Baghdad, according to the Department of Defense.

All three soldiers were assigned to the 725th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Ft. Richardson, Alaska.

Noel Fontanilla was too distraught to speak about the loss of her husband, and the impending arrival of their second son has only amplified his absence.

Having grown up without much involvement from his own father, Fontanilla made sure to play an important role in his son's life.

That's how his aunt, Lysia Espinosa, remembers it. She continues to speak about her nephew in the present tense as if he is still alive.

"He loves his son more than anything," said Espinosa, 41, who helped raise Fontanilla. "He always tells his son that he doesn't want him growing up without a father."

Fontanilla spent his childhood in Stockton. He left while in high school to be with his mother, who was living on the island of Tinian, part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, about 1,000 miles east of the Philippines.

He graduated from Tinian High School and returned to Stockton, where he began taking engineering courses at San Joaquin Delta College and working as a stock clerk on the graveyard shift at a Target store, his aunt said.

Fontanilla eventually went to work at a KFC outlet managed by a relative. There he met Noel, a co-worker.

Fontanilla was of Filipino ancestry; his wife came from a Hawaiian family. The couple were married in October 2004. Their first son was born the following May, and Noel Fontanilla is awaiting the imminent arrival of their second son.

Fontanilla wanted greater stability for his young family and wanted to serve his country, so he decided to enlist in the Army. After passing basic training and instruction to become a paratrooper, he was stationed at Ft. Richardson, near Anchorage. His wife and son soon followed.

Then, last fall, Fontanilla was deployed to Iraq. Even there, his wife and son were never far from his mind. He sent back detailed sketches to relatives depicting the three-story home he hoped to build one day on Tinian, perhaps not far from the spot in the jungle where he and his younger brother, Lee Castro, once built a tin-and-wood clubhouse.

After completing his enlistment, Fontanilla had planned to reenlist as a reservist and return to college, perhaps in Texas, to earn an engineering degree.

"Everything he did was specifically for his family," his brother said.

In the aftermath of his death, the Army posthumously promoted Fontanilla to specialist.

In addition to his wife, son, and brother, Fontanilla is survived by his father, mother, stepfather and two sisters.


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