At 4½, little Codi Alvarado may be the single thread holding her family together right now.
“She grabbed her mom’s face and looked her straight in the eyes and said, ‘If we ever start to forget about daddy, can we just look at pictures?’ ” said Nacho Alvarado, who is the director of transportation for Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District, about his granddaughter’s remarks in reference to his son, OJ Alvarado. “She told her mom not to worry that she would tell her brother all about their father.”
Codi’s innocence is what the Alvarado family holds onto as they prepare to bury their 28-year-old son, husband, father and brother who was brought home Saturday with full military honors after dying in California of an unexpected medical condition.
James “OJ” Alvarado died June 1 in Mission Viejo, Calif. after spending nearly three weeks in a drug-induced coma, trying to recover from a brain bleed he suffered unexpectedly while working out one morning as he usually did.
OJ, who attained the rank of sergeant, served one tour in Iraq and one tour in Afghanistan with the United States Marines. He was based at Camp Pendleton at the time of his death. He will have a Marine stand guard over his casket until his burial Thursday.
He graduated from Greeley Central High School in 2004. He and his wife were expecting their second child, a boy they plan to name Able in August.
He is survived by his wife, Traci Alvarado; daughter; father; mother Kitty Alvarado; sister Justine Tucker; grandparents Ramon and Lupe Alvarado and Lovena Young, along with several aunts, uncles and a nephew.
He met his wife through mutual friends while he was home from boot camp in 2008. They married in 2009, just one week before he left for Iraq.
Traci said she never worried about him while he was overseas. He was healthy and never complained of being sick. So the day the phone call came from the gym, she knew something was very wrong. OJ had become short of breath and nauseous, she said. By the time paramedics arrived, he was unresponsive.
“I just kept yelling at him ‘Babe, babe look at me. I love you,’ ” she said through tears from Nacho’s home in Greeley on Friday. “He couldn’t respond.”
Doctors diagnosed OJ with an arteriovenous malformation. A condition that happens when arteries in the brain connect directly to nearby veins without having the normal vessels between them; they can rupture from pressure and damage to blood vessel. Blood then leaks into the brain or surrounding tissues and reduces blood flow to the brain.
“Doctors said he could have been born with it,” Nacho said.
The loss has left family confused and empty. Friday they reminisced about the man they lost and what he meant to everyone.
“He was driven to be the best he could be,” Nacho said. “He could be talented in every thing he accomplished. He lettered in every sport he played. When he went into the military he was mad at the world. But when he came home from boot camp he said boot camp could not break him because of how we raised him. He ended up loving the military so much he reenlisted.”
His sister, who nicknamed him Betty Crocker for his love of baking, said he didn’t care what it was, he had to be the best.
“If somebody told him he couldn’t do something, he would just prove them wrong. I always asked how he could be good at everything,” she said.
His mother said the past month has been a tough one, but they never saw this coming. They always thought because of his perseverance they’d bring him home for rehabilitation.
“He died doing what he loved to do,” she said. “My sister always put it the best. He was just perfect.”
“He died doing what he loved to do. My sister always put it best. He was just perfect.