Student Newspaper of Merrill F. West High School

The Zephyr

West High Marine remembered

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Courtesy of Yearbook

Courtesy of Yearbook

Courtesy of Yearbook

Ashley Christopher, Opinion Editor

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A compassionate Marine, member of the ‘Pack and friend of many, Lenin Enrique Priego Zurita passed away July 30, 2017 at only twenty years old while serving at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. He was born in Jalapa, Tabasco, Mexico and came to the United States with his mother at age nine.

The 2015 West High graduate was well known around campus, dedicated to both academics and athletics. Zurita, active in football, soccer and wrestling, always challenged himself to be the best he could be. “Anyone who knew [Lenin] knows he respected his West football jersey,” said Leonel Serrano, a friend of Zurita. “If you needed to find him your best bet would be the gym.”

Former West football coach Steve Anastasio described Zurita as “an outstanding young man, great teammate and always willing to go that extra mile… I feel blessed to have coached and known him.”

Zurita applied the same perseverance to his studies as he did on the field. As a member of the Space and Engineering Academy (SEA), he took his classes seriously, working hard to graduate with a 4.11 GPA. His dedication and efforts did not go unnoticed by his teachers. SEA English teacher Marna Bynum remembers having Zurita in her class for English 1 and 3. “He was always laughing and joking… and he seemed to get along with everybody around him.” Bynum continued to say that Lenin was a friend to the whole class, and he could easily converse with anyone he met.

According to his peers, Zurita’s loyalty was astonishing. No matter the situation, he would do his part and then some to ensure that his friends were taken care of. “You could have known him his whole life or just an hour and still know how humble and kind he was,” says Tanya Moreno, a fellow SEA student who had known Zurita since middle school. Both Moreno and Serrano agreed that their friend was a man of his word, and would never turn his back on anyone. Karla Perez, who also attended West, described Zurita as a “team player, a brother and an amazing friend,” who was “determined and wanted everyone around him to succeed too.”

After graduating, Zurita continued to be committed to the friendships he had made during his four years at West. “Lenin [would bring] everyone together,” said Serrano. “He had these little parties to get everyone to show up…those are where our best memories were created.”

It was during his senior year that Zurita decided he wanted to serve his country by joining the Marines. The young student did his research, trained his hardest and within months after graduating, saw his dream come true. Zurita advanced quickly during his time in the Marine Corps, serving at the Pentagon within just two years. From July of 2015 to July of 2017, the young Lance Corporal earned a handful of military awards, including five certificates of appreciation, a letter of appreciation, the National Defense Service Medal and the Global war on Terrorism Service Medal. During his time serving, Zurita also had the opportunity to meet and shake hands with President Donald Trump.

Zurita’s warm smile radiated a friendliness that even those who did not know him could feel; one could see his “happy soul” from such a grin. Two years after he has bid the Wolf Pack farewell, Zurita’s selflessness and spirit continues to motivate those attending West. On August 12, Zurita’s family, friends and graduating class along with current West High students released balloons at Veterans Park in Tracy in his remembrance. As hundreds of red, white and blue balloons soared up to the sky, onlookers remembered the incredible life of Zurita.

Though taken from us far too soon, Lenin Priego Zurita touched the hearts and lives of many, and he continues to inspire us to work hard and live selflessly.

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Student Newspaper of Merrill F. West High School
West High Marine remembered