Rep. Lipinski Honors Late Soldier's Memory
By DERMOT CONNOLLY
Southwest News Herald
Hundreds of people turned out on Tuesday for the unveiling of an honorary street sign at the corner of 47th Street and Keeler Avenue named for Army Private First Class Omar E. Torres, who died in combat in 2007 in Iraq.
Torres grew up in Archer Heights, less than a block from where the street is named for him. His parents, Doris and Oscar Torres Sr., sister Oralia and brother, Oscar Jr., and uncle Emilio Ortega, were among the family members present. Students from the nearby UNO Omar E. Torres Charter School led the Pledge of Allegiance, and met the family of the man their school is named after.
Oscar Torres Sr. is a retired Chicago firefighter, and top CFD officials were there to show their support for the family. A ladder truck was positioned beside the sign, holding an American flag above it.
Former state representative Dena M. Carli was the master of ceremonies for the event, and others in attendance included the Rev. Tom Bernas, former pastor of St. Richard Church, and Archer Heights Civic Association leaders Thomas Baliga and Stan Lihosit.
Ald. Ed Burke (14th) was the keynote speaker, and during his remarks thanked Omar’s sister, Oralia, for getting the street-renaming process started with a letter to him.
She said in her letter that her brother was a lifelong Archer Heights resident, where the family still lives. He graduated from St. Richard School, De La Salle High School, and was studying political science and Chinese at Ohio State University when he decided to enlist. She requested the street-renaming down the block from their home “to ensure that my brother’s name lives on. He has made us proud.”
Burke said that Mayor Rahm Emanuel was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict, but he read a proclamation from the mayor dubbing April 2, “Pvt. First Class Omar E. Torres Day” in Chicago.
“From our country’s very beginnings, our flag has been a symbol of service and sacrifice that Americans have followed into battle, and Omar represents that…May the memory of Omar live on,” says the proclmation.
Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) also was there, and presented an American flag that flew over the Capitol to Emilio Ortega for the family.
He, too, said that Omar epitomized the type of “service and sacrifice,” that everyone should strive for. “There is no greater service than to lay down your life for your country, and we’re here to celebrate the life of a young man who did just that,” he said. “We are all called to service and sacrifice.”
After the ceremony, Lipinski spoke briefly about his recent visit to Rome for the inauguration of Pope Francis. He put to rest rumors that he would be named ambassador to Vatican City, saying, “that’s not going to happen.”
But he said he enjoyed being there, and seeing the new pope greeting the crowds from the back of a Jeep.
Lipinski said that he admired the way Pope Francis has “cast aside the pomp of the office” and focused on addressing people and their needs. He said the call for “service and sacrifice” was something that Omar Torres shared with the pope.
After the ceremony, and the official photos were taken, the Torres family waded into the crowd of young students, much to their delight.
The children gathered around them, clamoring to meet the family, as Oscar Torres Sr. beamed, holding a replica sign aloft, with his wife and family around him.
“This is amazing. It is a very special day,” he said.
Oscar Torres Jr. is about to graduate from the Chicago Police Academy, and Emilio Ortega said Omar “was training himself to be a leader,” intending to return to Chicago and work for the community.
“We all have to continue on what Omar would have done,” he said.
Contribute Volunteer Lawn Sign Get Updates