Hamilton, NJ soldier killed in Iraq

April 25, 2011 3:07:33 PM PDT
"I never realized it was going to be my Omar," said Maria Vazquez of Hamilton.

Vazquez is grieving the loss of her youngest, 25-year-old Army Lieutenant Omar Vazquez, who was killed in Numaniyah, Iraq on Friday when a bomb exploded under his vehicle.

"I'm proud of him," she told Action News, "of his dream for dying for what he believed in."

But at the same time Vazquez is a heartbroken mother asking painful questions.

"Why so much war? Why are our young people dying?" she asked.

His family says since Omar was little he wanted to be a soldier. He joined the ROTC at 11-years-old and loved to dress up in uniform so much that his father's coworkers used to call him Barracks Boy.

"I feel proud of him because all he wanted to do was defend democracy," said Omar's father, Pablo Vazquez.

"After 9-11 that's when he really say that he really wants to serve his country," said Omar's aunt Loily Rodriguez.

On his first tour in Iraq, Lieutenant Vazquez was a serious student. He earned a master's degree from Rutgers University Camden and got his undergraduate degree from Rider University in 2007.

The chairman of the History Department at Rider told Action News Omar would still visit the campus and remembers him as a friendly, focused student who was sure he wanted a career in the Army.

"He was committed," said Professor Anne Osborne. "It was really what he wanted to do, and he did it. And from what I understand, he loved it and he was doing it really well."

His mom says when she would worry about his safety, Lieutenant Vazquez would try to calm her.

"He said, 'Mom, it's my job. I have to do it. You have to get used to it,'" said Maria Vazquez.

Lieutenant Vazquez was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Fort Hood, Texas.

Killed in the same attack was Pfc. Antonio G. Stiggins, 25, of Rio Rancho, New Mexico.