Carson Marine is killed in Iraq
Alejandro Carrillo, husband and father, was the 12th local member of armed forces to die there or in Afghanistan. He was on his second tour.
By Shirley Hsu
A 22-year-old Marine sergeant from Carson, who often came back to his high school alma mater to encourage students to stay in school, has been killed in combat in Iraq.
Marine Sgt. Alejandro Carrillo, a Carson High School graduate, died Jan. 30 while conducting combat operations in Anbar. He was a driver with a combat logistics battalion.
Carrillo, whose brother was killed by police two years to the day before Carrillo died, was a promising leader, said his Junior ROTC instructor, Master Sgt. Phillip Zamora, who knew him all four years of high school.
"He would come back to the school and talk to the kids, and tell them, 'Hey, you need to get a good education; there's more to life than the streets and drugs and gang banging,' " said Zamora, who became a close mentor to the teenager over the years.
When Carrillo told him he was joining the Marines, Zamora sat down with him for a heart-to-heart.
"I spoke to him. I told him, 'Hey, you know what's going on over there.' He said, 'I'm very well-aware of that. But I'd rather die serving my country than die in the streets for no cause, for no reason,' " Zamora said.
The 12th local member of the armed services to die in Iraq or Afghanistan, Carrillo was deployed to Iraq for his first seven-month tour soon after finishing boot camp. He was scheduled to return from his second tour of duty this month, said his wife, Maria Carrillo, who also participated in the JROTC.
"He was planning to go back to school, maybe be a psychology major," Maria said. Between his two tours, he had a chance to spend a little time with his son, Alejandro Jr., now 3.
Maria said her husband took a lot of pride in his work, but he relaxed and showed his softer side at home.
"At work he was one person, at home he was another. He was very fun-loving, very outgoing," she said.
Zamora said he wasn't surprised when he heard that Carrillo had been promoted to sergeant. He was motivated, disciplined, a quick learner -- and meticulous about his uniform, Zamora recalled.
"I really knew that he would move up," he said. "I knew he was going to impress a lot of people."
Carrillo attended Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Wilmington, said his wife.
He is survived by his wife and son; his parents, Daniel Carrillo and Luisa Bravo; three brothers, Juan, Luis and Allan; and a sister, Dayana.
Maria Carrillo said the family is devastated by the loss of a second son.
His brother was killed exactly two years earlier after a police chase.
Marvin Vasquez, 25, was shot at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 30, 2005, after deputies responded to a domestic disturbance call regarding Vasquez and his girlfriend, Maria Contreras.
Vasquez's family claims he was unarmed at the time and have filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that deputies killed him without legal cause and fabricated a story about Vasquez "having a knife and stick."
The deputies said they had probable cause to believe Vasquez was armed and that they acted in self-defense.
In the guest book of Carrillo's online obituary, people from across the country, including some who never met him, posted messages offering condolences for the family.
"My heart breaks again as I sign yet another guest book of another courageous young soldier who gave their life so selflessly," wrote a Pennsylvania couple who lost their son to the war.
Like a son
Zamora, too, is grieving over the loss of one of his best students, who he said was like a son.
He says he can't help but feel somehow responsible for the death, but he knows the JROTC program has encouraged many students to stay off the streets.
"I always worry about all of the kids, but mostly the ones joining Marines because they are in the thick of things," he said.
"So many of them have gone on to have successful careers.
"But when you hear something like this, it's just devastating."
A vigil service for Carrillo will be at 7 p.m. Friday at the Green Hills Mortuary Chapel, Rancho Palos Verdes.
A viewing will begin at 6 p.m. Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 am. Saturday at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Wilmington. firstname.lastname@example.org