Wilfredo Perez Jr. was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on December 19, 1978, his family always called him "Jr.", and as a young boy he was into everything and anything.
Jr. was selflessly devoted to his family. A kind-hearted young man, he helped take care of his great aunt Dawn, who was wheelchair bound, and regularly took his aunt Cathy, sick with cancer, to her doctor appointments. He also took his grandmother Herminia out shopping and to the casino. He was very close to and loved his sister Lisa Marie and would do anything for her.
His last letter from Iraq arrived the day after the family learned that he'd lost his life in the line of duty on July 26, 2003. In that letter, written crouched in a Humvee, Jr., 24, told his stepbrother Joseph, 15, that he needed "to finish school" to be able to take care of himself and "be the man."
Jr. loved New York City and called Queens his home. He lived half his life there and half in Connecticut, where he moved to live with his father and attend Nathan Hale Middle School and Norwalk High School.
He loved clothes and shopping; not only buying complete outfits for himself but also buying things for others.
He loved playing handball. He loved Six Flags and Action Park. As he got older, he loved downhill skiing, playing golf, riding his motorcycle, and working on his car.
Jr. was always involved. At 13, he marched with the Sea Cadets in the Desert Storm ticker-tape parade in New York City. At 16, he volunteered at the Special Olympics' World Games in New Haven, Conn. He also walked in fundraisers for the American Diabetes Society and the Multiple Sclerosis Society. At 17, he was a member of Junior ROTC at Norwalk High. After Sept. 11, 2001, at age 23, he enlisted. He was proud to wear the uniform of the U.S. Army and serve his country. The day before he shipped out to Fort Hood, Texas, he rode in the 2002 Connecticut United Ride to raise money for Fairfield County police and firemen.
Jr. joined the army in April 2002 and headed to Fort Benning, Georgia for basic training after which he was transfered to Fort Hood, Texas for more training. He left for the Middle East in the winter of 2002 eventually being stationed in Iraq.
Jr., and two other soldiers, Sgt. Daniel K. Methvin and Spc. Jonathan P. Barnes, lost there lives in Baqubah, Iraq on July 26, 2003 while guarding a children's hospital. They were with the Army's 1/67th Armor Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.
Jr. is survived by his father, Wilfredo Perez Sr., stepmother Vicki Roos, and stepbrother Roman, all of Norwalk; and his mother, Ann Marie Eccles, sister Lisa Marie, stepsister Teila, and stepbrother Joseph, all of Queens.
Wilfredo Perez, Jr. was a leader. Strong physically and mentally, handsome and charismatic, he had a beautiful smile and loved making people laugh. If you knew him only briefly, you would never forget him.
A college scholarship fund has been established at Norwalk High School and Brien McMahon High School in Jr.'s name and honor.
Braving the Grief
By HOWARD V. SANN
[First published July 10, 2005 in the Sunday Hartford Courant's "Northeast" magazine. Reprinted with permission.]
On July 26, 2003, Spc. Wilfredo Perez Jr. of Norwalk became the third serviceman from Connecticut to die in Iraq. The past two years have been a journey in braving grief for Perez's father and the rest of the Perez family, as chronicled here by Wilfredo Perez's brother-in-law.