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LAWTON, Okla. — On what would have been Cpl. Wilfred Flores Jr.’s 27th birthday, members of the Lawton-Fort Sill community gathered to dedicate the computer lab inside the new Fort Sill Youth Center to his memory.
His parents, Wilfred Sr. and Vicky Flores of Lawton, both retired sergeants first class, unveiled a plaque that will occupy a place of honor in the lab.
“Wilfred was born and raised here in Lawton-Fort Sill. Both his parents, Wilfred and Vicky, were in the military and retired here, and he graduated from Eisenhower High School. So when he joined the Army, he was continuing that tradition of military service in the Flores family, and the values you gave him were tremendous,” Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, commanding general of Fort Sill and the Fires Center of Excellence, told family members seated in the front row.
After basic combat training and advanced individual training at Fort Benning, Ga., the young soldier was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y. While on his second deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Flores was on patrol in Baghdad when his Humvee was struck by a roadside bomb, killing him and another member of his unit. He died March 31, 2007, just 11 days short of his 21st birthday.
“He died doing what he loved, and what he loved was being a soldier,” McDonald said. “He volunteered to serve his country, and he did it during a time of war. And there’s nothing more selfless, and there’s nothing more brave than what he did. We’re proud to be dedicating this computer lab in his name.”
The general noted that the tribute is fitting because the corporal enjoyed computers and video games. His bio shows the corporal to have been a multi-faceted person. In addition to video games and computers, he enjoyed paintball, collecting medieval knives and swords, studying genealogy and driving his Camaro. He did volunteer work for Giddy Up ‘N’ Go, working with disabled children and adults by giving them the opportunity to learn to ride horses.
Vicky Flores told The Lawton Constitution that she learned about memorializations through her son’s sergeant’s mother, who encouraged her to do this.
“I thought it would be a great way to give back to the community, to remember my son, but also it’s not just for my son,” she said. “I want this to be about all family members, all soldiers, everyone who has lost a loved one. This is a dedication for all of them.”
“It’s been a long five years, and all of a sudden, this day was here. … I have so many emotions at the moment; it’s just really hard to stand still, to be honest with you,” Vicky Flores said.
“He was a fun-loving kid. He did his job, and he did it well,” she said. “He also wanted to be involved in the community and help people. It’s great for youth to kind of look up to somebody and say, ‘Yeah, OK, it’s possible. Never give up. Pursue your dreams.’ He pursued his dreams, and no matter what the outcome, he did exactly what he wanted to do with his life.”
Her son always wanted to be stationed at Fort Sill.
“This is my way of saying, OK, Willy, you’re home. This is yours. Happy birthday,’ ” the soldier’s mother said, adding that she appreciates all the community support she’s had, especially from Morale, Welfare and Recreation Director Brenda Spencer-Ragland and the commanding general.
Wilfred Flores Sr. said the dedication provides closure for him, and he feels relaxed, relieved and happy now.
Youth Center Director Brooke Wilson said the computer lab is one of the most popular rooms in the Youth Center, which opened in mid-December. It has 15 computers, eight iPads that can be checked out and Nintendo DSes. The computers can be used for homework, projects or leisure. Users can Skype with youth in other centers around the world and with their parents overseas.
Wilson said the center serves an average of 300 to 500 youth a year. Hours of operation are 2-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 2-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.