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Focus on Service

Remembering MA1 Zamarripa

With a dream to serve we look on MA1's service to his country and city

Sense of service and dedication are qualities often overlooked until they are no longer in front of you. This is a lesson military families know all too well, one that was brought home to the city of Dallas, July 7, 2016.

That day, one of the deadliest for U.S. law enforcement since 9/11, five Dallas police officers who represented those qualities paid the ultimate price.

The attack happened in downtown Dallas during a protest against the killing of two African-Americans, one in Louisiana and the other in Minnesota. One of the five officers killed that night was Master-at-Arms 1st Class Patricio Zamarripa, a reserve Sailor, stationed at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base. Although it was a great loss, his family and friends look back at the legacy he left behind and his dream to serve others.

Indeed, the way some children may dream of reaching the stars as astronauts, and some dream of healing others as doctors, as a young child, Patricio wanted to serve and protect those in need.

"Where we grew up was the barrio [a low-income neighborhood], so-to-speak," said Valerie Zamarripa, Patricio's mother. "He was just a regular kid. He ran around doing the whole sand lot thing, playing baseball. So he was proud once he became an [police] officer, because not many people get to do what they say they wanted do as a kid, but he did, and I was very proud of him."
Three photo collage of MA1 Zamarippa: MA1 at a football game; his memorial after his death; aboard a Navy boat overseas.

Growing up in a single family house, Patricio not only learned to work hard, but also to take advice from his older sister, Laura, who was another matriarchal figure in his life. While Patricio was finishing high school, Laura was serving in the Navy. When she returned from her first deployment, she asked him what he planned to do after he graduated.

"He said he was just going to go to college, and I said, 'No you won't, because you wouldn't finish it,'" recalled Laura. "So we went on down to MEPS [Military Entrance Processing Station] and got him signed up. He was only 17 at the time, so I brought my mom the form [allowing him to enlist early] and told her to sign it and that he was going to join as an MA after he graduated, but I did let him have his summer so he could have some fun."

Just one month after Patricio enlisted, the September 11 attacks rattled the United States, and his family began to worry what would happen next.

"I was scared knowing he was eventually going to [Iraq]. Not really knowing where he was going to be at most of the time, put me on edge," said his mother.

He never went into detail of what he did while he was there because that was just the type of person he was. He would share the good things with me, but never the ugly or bad things." - Valerie Zamarripa

From family accounts, his experience in the Navy and multiple deployments only strengthened Patricio's character and his dedication to serve.

"I just saw him become a man. Even though he was still my baby, I saw him become a bigger and better person, and to appreciate what he had and what he knew," said Valerie.

After leaving active duty service, Patricio moved back to his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, joined the Navy Reserves and returned to his dream of protecting and serving his community as a police officer.

"It was a struggle for him," recalled his mother. "He was married and was trying to juggle being at the academy and his family, but he was very proud and excited to finish the academy and start doing police work."

He enjoyed the camaraderie with his brothers on the force, just like his shipmates in the Navy. Just like the military, law enforcement service can provide the opportunity for people who have never met to share experiences and learn and grow from each other, bonding them in a unique way.
Three photo collage of MA1 Zamarippa: MA1 deployed; walking with one of his kids; his memorial after his death.

"I learned a lot of things from him," said Josh Rodriguez, Patricio's former partner. "One was just talking to people and seeing the little things that help you [as a police officer] come closer to the truth. A lot of it just came down to the fact he was a real down to earth guy that knew how to talk to people. When we first met each other, we clicked very quickly. We both had similar backgrounds. We both had young daughters and our friendship grew quickly, and he would always give me little hints and ways to take care of my daughter. And we only grew closer once we were assigned on to the same task force."

The inherent dangers of working in both fields were not lost on Master Chief Master-at-Arms Cesar Rodriguez, from Navy Cargo Handling Battalion 13 and a fellow Dallas police officer, who Patricio worked for while in the Reserves. He looked back at the similar service and careers they shared.

These jobs that we have, whether its law enforcement or military, the reason they're so dangerous is because people depend on us to put our lives on the line, and if we are not prepared to do that or we're not trained to do that, we're not doing them or ourselves any good." - Josh Rodriguez

Patricio accepted these inherent dangers. And while his family and friends mourn him, they know that was just who he was.

"Z knew the hazards that are involved," said Rodriguez. "He joined [the Navy] at a young age. He's been to Iraq before, and when you come out of a situation like that and then you still seek a job where you're going to be in the line of fire, that tells me a lot about his character, about his heart and about his loyalties. And as a chief, you never want to lose any of your people. I was proud to have him serve under me and I was proud to serve with him and he won't be forgotten."