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California Marines Die in Fighting With Iraq Insurgents

Times Staff Writer

Karen Cisneros is 11 and approaching her birthday on June 11. But she doesn’t like the number 11 anymore.

First, terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. Then terrorists destroyed a train and killed hundreds of people in Spain on March 11. And last week, her beloved uncle, Marine Pfc. George D. Torres, died in Iraq on Easter Sunday, April 11. “It seems like all bad things happen on 11,” said Oralia Cisneros, Torres’ older sister and Karen’s mother.

“He’s a hero,” Karen said, before crumpling into tears.

Torres, 23, killed by enemy fire in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton. Torres, who joined the Marine Corps last March, had been in Iraq for less than two months.

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His family gathered last week in the Long Beach apartment he shared with his parents, Fernando and Genoveva Torres, and his younger sister, Evelyn. “I loved him very much,” his mother said in Spanish. “I was very proud of him.”

Torres was born the fifth of six children on Sept. 21, 1980, in Harbor City, and lived briefly in the family’s tiny hometown of Urequio, Mexico.

Family members describe him as the type who couldn’t sit still for very long.

“He was a party boy,” said his aunt, Anna Garcia, who described him as happiest when cruising with friends in his black Honda Civic or flying to Mexico to visit friends.

But Torres had higher aspirations. After dropping out of Millikan High School, he earned his high school diploma from Long Beach School for Adults so he could enlist in the Marines.

Cisneros said her brother wanted to be a police officer, and hoped that military experience would help him with a successful career. His family did not want him to join the military, however. Cisneros said her mother persuaded another brother, Francisco, to stay out of the military years before, but could not sway George.

Even though he was only about 5 feet 4, family members said Torres looked imposing and impressive when he graduated from training, standing side by side with his fellow Marines. “We were very proud,” Garcia said. “Whatever he put his mind to, he would do. He had resolve.”

When Torres came home to visit his family, he sometimes brought military rations to show them what he ate in the Marines. The rations were a far cry from his favorite dish, tacos de lengua, or beef tongue tacos, which his father often made for him.

When he enlisted, Torres told his family that, if anything happened to him, he wanted them to use his benefits to finally buy a house.

His mother told him she would forgo a house if it meant that he would stay alive.

Funeral arrangements have not been finalized, but burial will be at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Long Beach.

Torres also is survived by another sister, Olga Torres of Redmond, Ore.; and another brother, Fernando Torres of Long Beach.


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