Sunday, September 30, 2007

Army Sgt. Randell Olguin

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Randell Olguin, 24, of Ralls, Texas

Sgt. Olguin was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany; died Sept. 30, 2007 in Baghdad of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using small-arms fire.

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal—A Ralls soldier died Sunday doing exactly what he wanted to do.

Sgt. Randell "Randy" Olguin, 24, died from wounds suffered in an attack on his unit in Baghdad, according to a statement from the Department of Defense. His father, Sid Olguin, said the Army told him his son's unit was patrolling the city when his squad came under fire. Randy was the only soldier killed in the attack, Sid said.

Randy's high school principal, his family and his coach could not remember him ever talking so passionately about anything as he did about joining the U.S. Army. He left for basic training in 2003, weeks after graduating high school. Randy had just re-enlisted, his father said, and was killed on his second tour in Iraq.

"He died doing what he wanted to do," Sid said

Randy was a Ralls Jackrabbit before he was a soldier, wearing maroon and white in just about every sport the tiny high school offered. Baseball, football, a year of basketball, cross country; he loved to run, despite carrying a thick lineman's build. His low, stocky frame could be seen bobbing on two- to three-mile jogs on the dirt roads around his house - runs he took after football practice, Joey, an older brother, said.

"Come home practically passing out," he said, smiling. "Go play a football game Friday and go to a track meet on Saturday."

You couldn't call Randy a natural, said his baseball coach, Billy Villareal, but he compensated by throwing himself at the sport. Randy told Villareal he wanted to play catcher - no one was real sure why - and worked hard for two years before becoming a district honorable mention at the position.

Villareal remembered hurling buckets of baseballs at his crouched young backstop-in-training to teach him how to block an errant throw or pitch. Randy would stand up, beaten and bruised all over his arms. He would come back and ask for more the next day.

"That always said a lot about him, because he wasn't always the best athlete but did what he had to do to contribute," Villareal said. "I'd say, 'well, you know Randy, maybe we need to take a day off,' and he'd say 'I don't want you getting on me during a game!' "

Teachers thought him quiet, not a complainer, not a cut-up, but his family knew better. He was the baby of his brothers and sisters, and he and Joey were the troublemakers - harassing their nieces with energy to spare. When Randy came back to Ralls two years ago in December on leave with his girlfriend, he shocked his family by telling them he came back to get married.

"He was full of surprises," his father said. "He was a joker."

Sid served 12 years in the Army and never understood what it was that his hyper, rambunctious son saw in the rigorous order of the service. But teachers said he never talked of anything else and returned to his school after boot camp proudly wearing his uniform.

"I guess for the reason that the Army was a lot of physical and he was into physical things," Sid said.

"And he wanted to follow you," Randy's sister Anita said.

Villareal had several former students who went on to military service but none that had been killed in combat, he said. Randy's senior class had 44 students, including two teammates also serving in the military.

Villareal watched his football team run through passing drills Tuesday afternoon.

"We get really close to these kids, especially at a small school," he said. "It's almost like they're yours. That's one of those deals; it still hasn't hit me."

Sid Olguin tried to beat the news back to his family. Randy's wife called him from Germany, where Randy was based, to tell Sid the news. Sid, a trucker, could not make it from Illinois to his small house in Ralls before his wife and children learned what had happened.

Sid wanted his son to know that he was proud of him, he said, that they all were, and always would be. He reached down near his boots to find a blade of grass, his words - and his composure. Randy's brothers and sisters were standing in their parents' small front yard, on a short sidewalk patio, slipping in and out of past tense as they described their brother.

More than anything, he wanted the soldiers to stay in Iraq, Sid said, his children nodding. He wanted them to finish what they started, no matter that he thought the war was turning into another Vietnam.

"That's the one thing I would not like," Sid said. "For my son to die in vain."

Army Sgt. Randell Olguin was killed in action on 9/30/07.

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