Soldier's Sacrifice, Remembering Orlando Mesa

Fresno, CA 21 year old /*Orlando Mesa*/ returned safely from the war zone, but drowned here in the Valley after a fishing trip with friends.

His body was recovered Wednesday, by his father.

Orlando had just finished training in the Army National Guard to be a Sergeant. His parents are farm workers, and he wanted to eventually become a Highway Patrol Officer. Sadly, his life ended tragically in a fast and frigid Madera County creek.

This is one of the last pictures of Orlando Mesa taken the day he and his friends set out for a fun day in the foothills.

It ended in this whirlpool, with all three fighting to make it out of Chiquito Creek Alive.

Lucas Padilla said, "I don't know how we got out."

"All we could do is not think and just try and act. We did the best we could we got ropes and sticks and started scouring the shores and see places we could safely get to and try and look for him," said Deryk Garrett.

After 17 days of searching from dawn till dusk Orlando's father finally found his son's body Wednesday ending what little hope the family had that he might have made it out.

Orlando's Cousin Jesse Morales said, "He's trained for that. He has survival training. He's young, he's strong. So there was that possibility that he might now be, until yesterday when he actually found him."

His friends say they stopped at the creek to take a picture when each of them lost their footing on a mossy rock.

"We all went down there trying to help each other and definitely he was trying to help us but I don't think anyone intended to go in that water," said Garrett.

In this Exeter barber shop, we found the man who for 15 years has cut Orlando's hair. He listened to stories about his life and recently war.

Jesse Rodriguez said, "Here lately he just always talked about serving his country and it's a great loss because he was a wonderful young man, you know what I mean. So that's about all I say about him because I get emotional because I've known him since he was a little boy, you know."

Thursday Chaplain Marc Unger came to pray with Orlando's parents. He knows their pain, he too has lost a son, only his was in war. Orlando's friends also came to comfort the family. They want everyone to know that their friend is a hero.

"There's no doubt that he went down there to try to save us from what happened but it happened to all three of us the exact same thing. It just happened so fast no one could predict it," said Garrett.

"He was like a brother to me. He did things for me my own family members wouldn't do for me. We all stuck together," said Padilla.

Now since his parents have taken the past three weeks off from their jobs in the fields and at a packing shed, they are financially in need of help especially to bury their son.

If you'd like to help you can go to any Bank of America and donate.

Bank of America
Orlando Mesa Memorial Fund
Account# 08886-68366

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