When Roy Lopez transferred to Cal State Fullerton after two years in community college, he immediately joined the Army ROTC program on campus.
“He was following in his older brother’s footsteps,” said Lopez’s mother, Adriana Mraz. “He knew how important the program was to Joe, his older brother. I think Roy found a sense of community, discipline and structure in ROTC.”
Mraz was living part time in Michigan, and she believes Roy’s professors and ROTC instructors became like a second family to him. During his year in ROTC, he participated in the color guard and was very close to his fellow cadets.
Unfortunately, Roy would never graduate or receive a military commission. Three years ago, he committed suicide. But his mother firmly believes that the time Lopez spent in ROTC was amounted to the best times of his young college career. “He found himself centered, goal-oriented and more patriotic than ever,” she said.
To honor her younger son’s memory, Mraz has committed to donating $150,000 to construct a military obstacle course for ROTC candidates to improve their skills. The closest comparable course, at Camp Pendleton, costs the ROTC program $10,000 a year to transport and house approximately 100 cadets there every semester.
The course at Cal State Fullerton will be named in memory of Roy Lopez and will provide cadets, as well as members of other organizations, with physical training and conditioning, rappelling, rope bridges and more. A military obstacle course also assists in developing leadership skills and team-building opportunities.
However, a course of this type is expensive — approximately $200,000. Fortunately, other donors stepped up to make up the difference. Building the course will begin this month.
“Dealing with the aftermath of Roy’s death has been very hard, but I can think of no better way to honor his memory than by helping out his ROTC family — this is the program that took in my son and countless others and taught them dedication and self-discipline.
“I still feel very close to this program and the people involved,” she said. “Over the years, I’ve developed a warm, close relationship with the faculty and staff. I remember my own boys traveling to Pendleton for their course, and this is my way of giving back to a program that gave so much to our family.”
More information on the Roy Lopez military obstacle course is available online.