Based: Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii
2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force
Supporting: Operation Enduring Freedom
Died: October 10, 2009
Farah province, Afghanistan
High School: Hanford West High (Hanford)
Alfonso Ochoa Jr. was married just weeks before he left for Afghanistan in May and was killed two weeks before he was scheduled to return home.
Early on in high school, Alfonso Ochoa Jr. decided he needed to get out of Armona, the tiny Central California town where he grew up. He saw his friends making bad decisions and, without a change, he figured his future looked bleak.
Joining the Marine Corps was a way to escape, according to several who knew him.
"Around here, there is a cycle. Families are in a cycle; people don't leave," said Bobby Peters, principal of Hanford West High School, where Ochoa attended. "He didn't want that to happen to him, and he was going to cut ties if he had to."
During his junior year, Ochoa began distancing himself from his usual crowd and began focusing on completing the credits he needed to graduate, Peters said.
The young man was in such a rush to enlist that for his final semester he opted to enroll at a local adult school, where he was able to earn his diploma in a hurry, working at a faster pace than at a traditional high school. He left for basic training a short time later.
Peters, who had counseled Ochoa for years, was disappointed. He had hoped Ochoa would stay and graduate with his peers, but in the decision he noticed a transformation.
"It was one of the first times I'd seen him becoming a man, saying, 'No, Mr. Peters, this is what I'm going to do,' " the principal recalled. "I was proud of him. He had that much vision and clarity in his life."
The meeting in fall 2007 would be their last.
The 20-year-old lance corporal was killed Oct. 10 in western Afghanistan's Farah province, on the Iranian border. Ochoa was on patrol with his unit when he stepped on an improvised explosive device, military officials said. He was the only one killed in the explosion.
Read the entire LA Times story about Lance Corporal Alfonso Ochoa Jr. here and visit his Guest Book here, with more about Corporal Ochoa here and here.
From his home town paper, the Hanford Sentinal:
He leaves to cherish his memory, his wife, Angie Ochoa of Armona, Calif; his parents, Alfonso C. Ochoa, Sr. and Ramona Ochoa of Armona; his two brothers, Daniel Ochoa and Alex Ochoa, both of Armona; his grandparents, Margarito and Micaela Miramontes of Visalia, Calif.; his mother -in-law, Blanca Rugerio of Las Vegas, Nev.; his sister-in-law, Maria and brother-in-law, Attilio, both of Las Vegas, NV; many extended family members and friends.