Advertisement

Kristofferson Bernardo Lorenzo dies at 33; Army staff sergeant is killed in Afghanistan

Army Staff Sgt. Kristofferson Bernardo Lorenzo of Chula Vista was among four soldiers who were killed when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province.

August 07, 2011|By Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times
  • Kristofferson Bernardo Lorenzo was known for his love of family, friends and Filipino food. He had two young sons with his wife, Leah.
Kristofferson Bernardo Lorenzo was known for his love of family, friends…

Kristofferson Bernardo Lorenzo would drive for hours for two passions: Filipino food and the company of friends.

The Army staff sergeant who left Manila as a child had a perennial smile, said those who knew him. Lorenzo, who was married and the father of two young boys, was also a whiz mechanic, fixing buddies' brakes in exchange for a good meal or some laughs, said his wife, Leah Liza Lorenzo.

A 33-year-old infantryman from Chula Vista, Lorenzo was killed with three other soldiers May 23 in eastern Kunar province, Afghanistan, when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.

The men were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. It was Lorenzo's third deployment to a war zone.

When Lorenzo's casket was unloaded at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar last month, his 4-year-old son, Keane, stood at attention, his tiny arm locked in a salute to the "hero" he had kissed goodbye just two months earlier.

"We explained to Keane that Dad was a soldier and that his job required him to leave and protect this country," said Leah Lorenzo, 30. "So he was our hero for keeping us safe."

While Lorenzo didn't always like it, his wife said, "He was very good at being a soldier. We prepared ourselves, we talked about it, and that's why I am able to live life because he told me that I will be strong for the kids even without him."

Born in Manila, Lorenzo was close to his older sisters and cousins. He loved cars and admired David Hasselhoff's tricked-out, talking Pontiac Trans-Am on the TV show "Knight Rider," one cousin recalled on a Facebook tribute page.

As he grew up, Lorenzo and his family paid visits to Europe and the U.S. and lived for one year in Nigeria, where his father worked as an architect. In 1985, his mother died of childbirth-related complications, along with his newborn brother. Two years later, the family moved to San Diego. Lorenzo was 10.

After he graduated from Spring Valley's Mount Miguel High School, he and several buddies enlisted in the military.

Lorenzo, who went by "Kris," landed at Fort Bragg, N.C., after basic training. There, Justin Farris noticed the plates on the newcomer's black Toyota pickup and invited him to hang out with a group of Golden State refugees. They worked on their cars, racing in their spare time.

"He was always happy and energetic," Farris, 35, said of Lorenzo. "He was somebody you could trust."

Lorenzo's greatest pleasures, his wife said, were family, friends and food (pork sinigang soup was a favorite). He took pride in his heritage, donning shirts decorated with the stars of the Filipino flag and striking up conversations with Filipino strangers.

Lorenzo left the Army after a few years and returned to California to work as a mechanic.

About the same time, he reconnected with Leah, whom he had met at a mall when she was 12 and he was 15. She soon left to live in the Philippines but at age 19, she moved to Seattle and dug up the number of another boy from her youth. Kris was around too, the boy told her, and would want to chat.

The two tied up the phone line so much in calls and online chat that Kris resorted to old-fashioned letters. "That's when I realized he was such a good guy," Leah Lorenzo said. When she flew down to visit, "He swept me off my feet after that first kiss."

Lorenzo was called up as a reservist in 2002, a day after Leah moved to San Diego to be with him. A year spent guarding a Utah power plant left him restless, however. He craved an active role in the war so he reenlisted and was deployed to Iraq.

The pair married after his return in 2006. The next year, he was off again, to Afghanistan. He returned in 2008 for a long home stint in Fort Jackson, S.C. Tristan, now 18 months old, was born, and Lorenzo embraced fatherhood, his wife said.

In April, he left for his second Afghan deployment, ending up at Pirtle King, a remote combat outpost. "Before they deployed, he said, 'This doesn't look good. I have a bad feeling,'" Leah Lorenzo recalled.

At 2 p.m. May 22, just hours before he was killed, Lorenzo chatted with his wife by computer.

"He was very calm and happy to see me and his younger son," she said. "We told each other how much we loved one another. I couldn't have asked [for] a better way to say goodbye."

Lorenzo is buried at Miramar National Cemetery.

In addition to his wife and sons, his survivors include his father and stepmother, Saturnino Lorenzo Jr. and Aurora Lorenzo, of San Diego; his sisters, Catherine Lorenzo-Ligason, of San Diego, and Charina Lorenzo-Dela Cruz, of Camarillo, and many relatives in San Marcos and the Philippines. Friends have started a college fund for his sons.

lee.romney@latimes.com

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|