OBERLIN — When a hero dies, you celebrate his life and the sacrifices he made.
That’s why the people of Oberlin and Lorain County lined the streets Wednesday in memory of Army Sgt. Louis R. Torres, who died last week of injuries he suffered from an improvised explosive devise in Afghanistan.
The crowds, flags and signs of support gave comfort to his family, including his little brother, Andre Ellis, 18.
“Oberlin is a small community, and everyone loves each other,” Ellis said. “Young and old came out to show their respect.”
Torres, 23, died Aug. 22 at the San Antonio Military Medical Center in Texas after being injured 16 days earlier in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Torres’ mother, Armanda Ellis, said the love of friends, family — and complete strangers — was appreciated.
“It was really nice how the whole town came out to honor Louis,” Ellis said. “It really showed how much they loved him, and he will truly be missed.”
Among those who knew Torres was Ronnie Rimbert, a former Oberlin councilman whose son, Dalton, played football with Torres at Oberlin High.
Rimbert remembers Torres’s bright smile and ready laugh when the youths got together to relax off the field.
“He was a very nice young man — a lot of fun,” Rimbert said.
Rimbert said he and his wife, Renetta, have a son, Thamir, an E-6 who is serving in the Air Force.
“I can’t even think to imagine losing a child,” Rimbert said, his voice breaking with emotion.
Elyria resident Diana Gregory waited with her sister, Debbie Halfhill, whose son, Jeremy, served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They have taken part in similar processions to honor fallen heroes ever since Sgt. Daniel Shepherd of Elyria was Lorain County’s first casualty on Aug. 15, 2004, when his M-2 Bradley fighting vehicle was struck by an IED in Iraq.
“This is a very small thing I can do,” Gregory said. “My sister was fortunate enough to have a son who came back.”
Wilma and Conrad Zech of Henrietta Township also drove to Oberlin to honor Torres.
Wilma Zech said she was touched when she looked up Torres’ photograph on the Wall of Honor on the website of the Lorain County Joint Vocational School from which Torres graduated in 2008.
“I started to cry — he was so handsome,” Zech said. “He would have had such a good chance to get a good job when he came out.”
Dozens of motorcycles took part in the procession, mostly bikers with the Patriot Guard Riders.
Tagging along was Army Staff Sgt. Joel Reynolds of Oberlin, who returned from Afghanistan three weeks ago.
“I just wanted to show my support,” Reynolds said.
Veterans were in force among the crowds, including Willie Young of Oberlin, who served in Vietnam with the Air Force from 1968 to 1973.
The experience in that war was “terrible,” according to Young, who helped transport the bodies of 20 to 30 soldiers home as a loadmaster on a
C-130 cargo plane.
Like Young, Air Force veteran Tom Weber, also of Oberlin, felt compelled to show respect for Torres and his family.
“I am so sorry about all these young guys dying over there,” Weber said. “He was a hero and gave his life for our country.”
Torres had planned on attending college after his enlistment was up and wanted to go into law enforcement or possibly the CIA, his mother said.
Torres was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
The Ellis and Torres family plans to welcome friends 2 to 7 p.m. today at Cowling Funeral Home, 228 S. Main St., Oberlin.
There will be a private service for family, friends and military members Friday at Rust United Methodist Church followed by burial in Westwood Cemetery in Oberlin.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that assists wounded veterans in returning to civilian life.
For more information, visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org. The address is Wounded Warrior Project, 4899 Belfort Road, Suite 300, Jacksonville, FL 32256-9411.
Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or firstname.lastname@example.org.