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Army Pfc. Oscar Sanchez

Died December 29, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

19, of Modesto, Calif.; assigned to 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), Fort Lewis, Wash.; killed Dec. 29 when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device struck his observation post in Mosul, Iraq.

Fort Lewis soldier killed in Mosul

Associated Press

FORT LEWIS, Wash. — Pfc. Oscar Sanchez and his wife intended to go on a cruise when he returned home to Modesto, Calif., from Iraq in February. Instead, Tiffany Sanchez has been making funeral arrangements.

An attack in Mosul killed the 19-year-old soldier on Dec. 29, just two days before the couple’s first wedding anniversary.

Sanchez went to Iraq in October as part of a Stryker unit from Fort Lewis. He was manning an observation outpost when insurgents launched a two-stage attack, said Dick Devlin, a public information officer at Fort Lewis.

Suicide bombers first drove a truck into the Stryker outpost and detonated 1,500 pounds of explosives. As a patrol responded with aid, a second bomber blew up an explosives-filled car.

Of 15 injured soldiers, Sanchez was among nine who were rushed to treatment at an Army hospital at Mosul Airfield. He died the same day.

“When he came back, we wanted to buy a house, and last year we didn’t have a honeymoon, so we were going to go on a cruise,” Tiffany Sanchez, also 19, told The Modesto Bee newspaper. “We thought probably the Bahamas or Hawaii, somewhere beachy. It really didn’t matter, as long as we had a good time and we were together.”

Sanchez entered active duty in October 2003, Devlin said. He arrived at Fort Lewis on Feb. 15, 2004, after undergoing basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Benning, Ga.

He was assigned to Iraq as part of 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team).

Family members said he joined the Army because he wanted to get a good job and provide for his family.

“His hopes and dreams were always to take care of his brothers and of getting his things together,” said a cousin, 30-year-old Stella Padilla. “A home for his father. A home for his brother.”

Sanchez was a decorated hero. He had earned the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal and the Army Service Ribbon. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, which is given for valor or service, the Purple Heart and the Good Conduct Medal, Devlin said.

Fort Lewis hero remembered at memorial service

FORT LEWIS, Wash. — A 19-year-old infantryman killed in an attack in Mosul, Iraq, died saving many of his fellow soldiers, friends and comrades said during a memorial service at this Army post south of Tacoma.

Pfc. Oscar Sanchez died last month defending his outpost from an oncoming truck loaded with explosives. He fired at the driver, forcing the man to detonate the explosives before he could reach the post.

“Pfc. Sanchez gave his life in the process of saving other soldiers’ lives,” chaplain Col. Henri Fischer said at a ceremony Friday at the post’s Evergreen Chapel. “That is the mark of a true hero.”

Twenty-three U.S. soldiers were wounded in the bombing — the number would have been far worse had the driver made it into the building, officials said.

Sanchez grew up in Modesto, Calif. His mother was killed when he was 11, after which he helped his father care for an older brother with Down Syndrome, and a younger brother and a younger sister.

In October 2003, Sanchez entered active duty, and two months later married his childhood sweetheart, Tiffany.

He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), which deployed to Iraq in November 2004.

The brigade had set up Combat Outpost Tampa and four others around the west side of Mosul to counter increased insurgent activity in Iraq’s third-largest city.

On Dec. 29, 2004, Sanchez stood up from behind a barricade to shoot at the driver of a bomb-laden truck driving toward the post. The driver detonated his 1,500 pounds of explosives before he could reach the post.

Sanchez was hit and killed by shrapnel from the explosion. It was just two days before his first wedding anniversary.

During Friday’s service, an officer read comments from Sanchez’ commander, Lt. Col. Erik Kurilla, given last week at a memorial service in Mosul.

“At only 19-years old, with a young bride waiting at home for his return, Oscar Sanchez had everything to live for,” Kurilla told soldiers. “With everything to live for, Pfc. Sanchez laid down his life for his friends so that they may live.”

— Associated Press

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