Homestate: Illinois

Role at OSU: Student

Date of Loss: 22 August 2007

Accident Type: IED

Country of Loss: Iraq

Career:

On May 18, 1987, Omar Ernesto Torres was born in Chicago, Illinois. He was the youngest of three children - four years younger than his oldest sister, Oralia and one year younger than his older brother, Oscar.  Like any other child, Omar was rambunctious, he was mischievous, curious, and most of all playful and passionate. Growing up, he was very hyper - always getting into trouble with his parents as well as his teachers in school. He was just one of those kids that didn't understand the meaning of "listen". But, he was a sweet kid, a helpful kid, a passionate kid.  When it came to sports, nothing else mattered. It's safe to say that football was his first love. Watching football on Sundays with family was a common activity in the home and as soon as he was old enough, he played football in grammar school and in high school. He attended St. Richard's School but played football for Queen of Universe since St. Richard's didn't have a football team. But, he did play basketball for St. Richard's and successfully took his team to the championships where they, unfortunately, lost. He also played baseball for Archer Manor.  High school came and gone - attending DeLaSalle Institute with his brother, Omar finally learned of his calling. While there, sports was still a huge part of his life where he continued to play football and also joined the wrestling team. It was there he decided that he wanted to go into Political Science and pursue a career in politics. With the help of a special teacher, Dr. Pena, he was able to pursue those dreams by receiving a full scholarship ride to The Ohio State University.

At Ohio State, Omar thought about trying out for the football team, which he did but wasn't tall enough to make the team. He then decided it was time to focus on his studies. Omar studied Political Science and Chinese throughout his first and second year of college.  It was during his second year of college that Omar decided he needed to do more. He joined the Ohio National Guard and became a resident of the state of Ohio.  But this wasn't enough, even though his commanding officers thought differently. Omar ignored his commanding officer's suggestions of going through officer's training because Omar felt that it would be the right thing to start from the bottom and work his way to the top. This was always Omar's way of thinking and it wasn't going to change now. Omar decided that joining the military was what he needed to do in order to change things that he felt needed to be changed. After getting feedback from his parents on whether or not they agreed to let him join the military, Omar still took it upon himself to make that decision. His mind was already made up and even if his parents told him not to join, it didn't matter.  So, in true Omar fashion, he joined the Army. Omar never let anything get in the way of him accomplishing his goals. Once he set his sights on something he wanted, he was determined to get it. In this particular situation, he wanted to join the Army and go overseas to fight for what he believed in. When he figured out that his commanding officers weren't going to help him get where he wanted to go, he helped himself. Omar flew to Virginia to plead his case of why he wanted to go overseas with U.S. Army. If you know Omar, you know there's no use in arguing with him so, of course, they complied.

In March of 2006, Omar was off to Fort Benning, Georgia for Basic Training. He would then soon get transferred to Fort Hood, Texas before his deployment to Iraq. In May of 2007, he was shipped off to Iraq. He would occasionally send letters to his family. He also spent time in Kuwait before going to Iraq where he had bought trinkets for his family. On August 22, 2007, during combat operations in the field, an improvised explosive device exploded near his unit. PFC Omar E. Torres died of those wounds he sustained by the IED. He was only 20 years old - he had just celebrated his birthday in May. Omar's loss is a tragic one. He sacrificed his young life for people he didn't know and never met but because he felt so strongly in serving his country, he did it selflessly. We continue to honor his memory by giving back to the community as he would have done.  Behind his childhood home, a charter school was built with three schools in one building.  One school, grades K through 8, is named PFC Omar E. Torres Charter School where their mascot is the Wildcat and their school motto is “Never Give Up." This motto, having been a big part of his life, comes from an essay Omar wrote when he was applying for a collaborative group at OSU. Amy Barnes, the Asst. Director of the Leadership Collaborative Group at Ohio State University at the time, was reading through his application to the Leadership Collaborative and came across this: 

"What is the best advice you have ever received and how did you incorporate it into your life?"

“The best advice I ever received was given to me when I was 7 years old. The advice was “never stop”. Actually, the advice was never stop running because I was competing in my elementary school's annual track and field day and I was in the relay race for 2nd graders. I fell down and my father told me to get up and "never stop running" (I won the race). The two words I have taken with me throughout my young life are "never stop". I have incorporated these words into my life because these are the words that drive me, in all aspects of my life whatever job or sport or anything that I undertook. I could not stop until it was completed. I have followed these words and reaped success because with them I have the ability to bunker down and complete my objective. In sports, I used the words as a catalyst, in running a five-mile I used them to keep me going because I learned that stopping and resting did not make you any stronger, finding a goal and succeeding in it even if it’s beyond your natural ability does make you stronger. Anyone who runs long distances knows that your body will tell you when it has reached its limit, you will feel a sharp pain in your side, your chest will begin to burn, but I believe that the ability to feel those pains and to simply keep going and never stopping is an important and vital skill. The skill can be described as endurance or vitality, but I believe it is more, because when I incorporate the advice "never stop" I am able to complete the hardest task, no matter the situation, and it raised my abilities and potential because it is a catalyst and I become more diligent in my projects the longer I work on them, and also if I literally “never stop”, I will always get to my destination."

An annual picnic is held by his family in honor and memory of Omar, where the money raised goes to a scholarship fund that was created in his name at his alma mater, DeLaSalle High School.  The street where Omar and his siblings used to play and grew up is now named after him so that his community can see that someone special is looking out for them from above.