Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), I Marine Expeditionary Force
Supporting: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Died: January 27, 2007
Hometown: Thousand Oaks
High School: Thousand Oaks High (Thousand Oaks)
Burial: Pierce Bros. Valley Oaks Memorial Park, Westlake Village
Read the entire Iraq War Heroes article about Marine Lance Corporal Anthony C. Melia here, visit Corporal Melia's Guest Book and read more about him here, here and here.
"I watched my wife die inside as she made a sound like I've never heard coming from somebody before," Mike Melia said. "When the doorbell rang and she saw the Marines standing there, her heart, soul and spirit disappeared. She went so far down so quickly. Our life got changed."
As soon as she saw the uniformed Marines on her porch, Vicki Melia collapsed on the entryway floor.
On Monday, she spoke of the moment she realized her 20-year-old-son was killed.
"I knew right away," she said. "He was the light of my life."
His father said Melia had been killed by a random bullet while searching on foot for armed insurgents in Al Anbar province. He was assigned to Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
To his family, Melia was a man of honor and dedication, fighting in a war he believed in, but on Monday afternoon the family clung together and wept as they recalled his childhood and remembered the boy who grew up in Thousand Oaks.
"He loved to watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Power Rangers," recalled his Aunt Marcy Douglas of Reno, Nev. "He liked lots of action. He also loved riding a dirt bike."
"He never hesitated to hug and kiss his parents in public and was always thoughtful of others," his mother said. "He was the captain of his football team at Thousand Oaks High School."
He had also played Titan Football, was a good friend, would open doors for others, could be trusted and loved to eat his mother's homemade teriyaki barbecue beef jerky, she said. He had lots of friends and was close to his parents; his sister, Nicole, 22; and his younger brother, Daniel, 17.
Melia's girlfriend, Jamie Chunko, 18, was hoping to marry him as soon as he returned home. His stay in Iraq, which had been scheduled to end this month, was extended to April, his mother said.
Even though he was fighting a war, she said, he made sure his 3-year-old nephew, Nicholas, whom he adored, got a Spider-Man blanket from him for Christmas.
"When he wasn't fighting, he found a computer and ordered that for Nicholas," said Vicki Melia, her eyes filled with tears.
Melia was determined to follow his heart. He had wanted to join the Marines since he was 10, so he could be "the best of the best." He'd begged his parents to sign the paperwork required to enlist at age 17, but his mother told him he had to wait until he was 18, old enough to take on that responsibility himself.
As the leader of four men in a special operations fire squad, Melia had been asked by his mother "to not be first in battle," she said. But he would not promise her that. He promised her the opposite. He was a born leader who told her he would always be the one leading, I lead by example, she said. ...
"Anthony was walking in the field looking around when a random bullet hit him in his temple and ended his life," his tearful father said.
His father recalled the many phone calls he and his wife received from their son in Iraq.
"No matter how tired he was, when he would come in from the field, the first thing he would do before he'd go to sleep, he would call his mother and tell her he was all right," said Mike Melia. "She adored him. They had a special bond."
"When he talked to me, he would tell me how horrible war is and how cruel the people he was fighting are," his father said. "He told me CNN refused to interview him because he believed in what he was doing and they only wanted to talk to people who didn't."
Mike Melia was also saddened at the many terrible scenes his young son had to witness in defending his country, he said.
"War is not pretty, but I believe the majority of Americans want to get the job done and then bring them home," Melia said.