Paul Anthony “Tony” Velazquez was born in Paris, Tenn., in July 1974. He grew up in San Diego and attended Mira Mesa High School, where he was part of the drama club and wrestling team. After graduating from high school, he began working at a local branch of Jack in the Box.
Velazquez enlisted in the Army in 1992 and was first assigned to Fort Sill in Oklahoma, where he was part of the 5th Battalion, 18th Field Artillery. In October 2002, he was reassigned to B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery, with which he served as a howitzer section chief. The following April, he deployed to Iraq to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Velazquez was aboard a CH-47 Chinook helicopter on Nov. 2 when it was shot down by insurgent forces near Fallujah. The attack killed Velazquez and 15 other service members who were also aboard the Chinook. He was 29 years old.
After his death, Velazquez was remembered as a lover of freedom. At his funeral on Nov. 11, a fellow service member stated that Velazquez “lived [freedom] … breathed it … and died for it.” Several of those close to him wrote loving memories of him. One described him as “generous and loving, always trying to keep his family close to him,” while another asserted that Velazquez “lived a hero [and] … died a hero.” His wife, Mary, received his Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and the flag covering his casket to honor his memory. Velazquez was also remembered on Memorial Day 2021, when NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace raced a car with a design specifically honoring him.
In addition to being married, Velazquez had three children. He had been planning to return home in June 2004 in anticipation of a newborn child.
We honor his service.