Willy was the first of his particular generation in our particular branch of the Flores family to enlist in the military. It really didn't come as a surprise, however, because after all, his Grandpa Mo was a retired Air Force sergeant and his parents – Vicky and Wilfred Sr. – were retired Army sergeants. Military tradition ran strong in that boy's blood; I like to think its shade as Army green.
His favorite game as a child? Playing Army. His life goals as a sixth grader? To be career Army, then after getting in his 20, retiring from the service, then hitting the comedy club circuit because he thought a career as a comedian would be fun. And until he could actually become a member of his beloved Army, he prepared for his career by joining the Jr. ROTC program offered at his Lawton, Okla., high school.
Willy served two years, including a tour in Iraq. While he didn't particularly care for being there, he assured his parents that he loved his job …
On March 31, 2007, the family's world was up-ended: Corporal Wilfred Flores Jr., a member of the Army’s 10th Mountain out of Fort Drum, NY, was fatally wounded by an an improvised explosive device that had detonated near his vehicle as he and his squad patrolled the area around Bagdad, Iraq. He was two weeks shy of his 21st birthday.
His fellow Commando Brigade soldier, Staff Sgt. Jason R. Arnett of Amelia, Va., four years his senior, died the following day from injuries sustained during that same explosion.
I confess that I still cry when I see his photo or when I think about him, but those tears are as much for my brother and his wife and their daughter, because I can't imagine how painful it is to go about life without your only son, without your only brother in it.