Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Marine Staff Sgt. Javier O. Ortiz-Rivera

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Staff Sgt. Javier O. Ortiz-Rivera, 26, of Rochester, N.Y.

SSgt. Ortiz-Rivera was assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Nov. 16, 2010 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

A 2002 Edison High School graduate, 26-year-old Staff Sgt. Javier Ortiz-Rivera, was killed Tuesday in an explosion in Afghanistan. Sgt. Ortiz-Rivera apparently was killed while on patrol in a remote region of the country.

Sgt. Ortiz-Rivera enlisted in the Marines right out of high school and planned to make the Marines his career. He was serving his second deployment to Afghanistan, and had also been to Iraq once. Born in Puerto Rico, Javier came to Rochester in 1991.

Sgt. Ortiz-Rivera leaves a wife and three small children in North Carolina where he was stationed in the U.S. His children are two boys, ages three and five, and a seven-year-old girl.

A cousin, Leslie Rivera, says "it's going to be really hard. They adored him and he adored them, so this is going to be a very hard time for them, for his wife, and for all of us here."

Sgt. Ortiz-Rivera's older brother Orlando flew to North Carolina to comfort the family. Their sister, 22-year-old Glory Ortiz, a State University of New York of Binghamton student says Sgt. Ortiz-Rivera was like a big brother to everyone in the family, even his cousins. And about serving, "it's what he always wanted to do. Yes, he was worried about being there. But he knew he had to go. It was his job. He cared a lot about his guys there, making sure their families were OK, and making sure they were OK before they left for Afghanistan. He was very caring about his guys."

Javier Ortiz-Rivera was fighting in Helmand Province, which is at the center of the battleground against the Taliban. While the Marines won't confirm it, his family says he was killed by a bomb. He died doing the only job he ever wanted.

His family sat around their Northside house, stunned. The only things they have now are pictures and memories. "We're a very close family. We all heard. We all came together, and that's what we do," said Leslie Rivera, Javier's cousin.

If they haven't already, the children will learn that their father died living his dream. He enlisted in the Marines in 2002, as soon as he graduated from edison tech. Service is the only life he knew, and the only one he wanted.

"He loves his job, he loved being a Marine. He re-enlisted every chance he got. This was going to be his career," said Rivera.

The Marine Corps says Staff Sergeant Ortiz-Rivera served a tour in Iraq in 2005 and 2006 and went to Afghanistan in September. His cousin says he's coming home with a new title. "I want everybody to know that he was proud. He was proud of the Marine Corps. He was proud to be an American. A soldier of this country, that he fought, he did his civic duty, and he was a lovable and honorable hero to all of us," said Rivera.

Fighting back tears on the phone, Jose Rivera, Staff Sgt. Ortiz-Rivera's uncle, said the family received calls and visitors Thursday from the Marine's high school friends along with members of their community church, Our Lady of the Americas on East Main Street.

Forty-eight hours after hearing the crushing news, Rivera said he still can't believe it. He said he struggles when people offer him condolences.

"A lot of people have been calling but there is not much you can say," said Rivera. "There are no words that can make it better."

Rivera said he has been in the area for three decades and many Rochester-area people know him and his family. He said many were touched when they read stories about the sudden death.

Ortiz-Rivera graduated from Edison Tech in 2002. He was on his third tour of duty.

Sgt. Ortiz-Rivera is survived by his wife, Veronica, a seven year old daughter, a five year old son and a three year old son. He also leaves behind his mother, Gloria Rivera, father, Orlando, brother Orlando and sister Glory.

Marine Staff Sgt. Javier O. Ortiz-Rivera was killed in action on 11/16/10.

No comments: