Updated 04/02/13 – 3:35 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Army Pfc. Omar Torres gave his life for his country in Iraq, and on Tuesday, the city honored his sacrifice and service by naming a street near his Archer Heights home in his memory.
CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports Torres was killed when his unit was hit with an explosive device during combat operations in Iraq in 2007.
Omar Torres graduated from De LaSalle high school, and got a full ride to Ohio State University, but enlisted in the Army and was called to active duty in his sophomore year.
Omar’s sister, Oralia, was instrumental in getting the city to rename the city block where he grew up near 47th Street and Keeler Avenue. On Tuesday, that stretch of Keeler Avenue received the honorary name Private First Class Omar E. Torres Way.
“I am so proud. I am so honored that the city was able to do this,” Oralia said. “This is amazing.”
After the honorary sign was unveiled, Torres’ father, Oscar, gently placed a kiss on it.
“It’s an amazing feeling. … It’s an honor. It’s a great honor,” he said.
Public service runs in his family. Omar’s father is a retired firefighter. His older brother, also named Oscar, is about to become a police officer next week. His mother, Doris, works for the Chicago Public Schools.
As she looked up at the street sign bearing her son’s name, Doris said, “It’s a bittersweet feeling. You know, we’re overjoyed, we’re honored; but then again, our sorrow, our grief.”
It was his sister Oralia’s idea to have a street named in his honor. She wrote Ald. Edward Burke (14th), who was happy to help.
“It reminds us of the core values of our nation and our neighborhood, doesn’t it?” Burke said.
“His memory will always live on,” Oralia said.
Just down West 47th Street is Omar E Torres Charter School. It was built and named after the 20-year-old soldier right after he was killed.
Students from the school joined Tuesday’s celebration.
“They can learn a lot from him; what a role model he was, and what he sacrificed for his country, and for his community,” his brother Oscar said.
Third grader Alyssa Rivera said, “He inspired me to … follow my dreams, and never give up what I want to be.
Asked what it’s like to hear a child say that about her son, Doris said, “That’s the best gift I could have.”
Omar’s father said it almost seems like, while they’ve lost a son, they’ve gained an entire community of children.
“We did. We adopted a class there when this first happened,” he said.
Doris said it has helped the healing process to have those other children to look after.
“Absolutely, because this takes away those dark memories and grief; because it brings me the happy memories that I have with Omar as a child,” she said.