Wednesday, November 16, 2011

John A. "JT" Lucente, Marines, Lance Corporal -- Rest In Peace

John A. "JT" Lucente, 19

Marines, Lance Corporal
Based: Camp Pendleton
Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force
Supporting: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Died: November 16, 2005
Ubaydi (near Syrian border), Iraq
Gender: Male
Hometown: Grass Valley
High School: Bear River High (Grass Valley)
Burial: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va.

Marine Lance Cpl. John Lucente, 19, Grass Valley; Killed by Hand Grenade

There was something sweetly old-fashioned about Marine Lance Cpl. John Lucente, who was among five Marines killed Nov. 16 in combat in Ubaydi, Iraq, an insurgent stronghold near the Syrian border.

The 19-year-old Grass Valley, Calif., resident went to church regularly, enlisted in the Marine Corps in his junior year in high school, held down a summer job as a dishwasher and never failed to tell his family that he loved them.

In his last e-mail home, Lucente asked for prayers for his safety and that of others in Operation Steel Curtain, which was launched earlier this month with 2,500 Marines, soldiers and sailors, as well as 1,000 Iraqi soldiers.

The assault was said to be the first time that battalion-sized Iraqi units have fought alongside U.S. forces in restive Al Anbar province, stretching west almost from Baghdad to the Syrian border. The province is a stronghold of Sunni-led insurgents fighting the American-backed Iraqi government.

In addition to his mother and stepfather, Lucente is survived by two brothers, Cris, 15, and 2-month-old Jake; and a sister Cassie, 9. Jake was given his name by Lucente, his mother said.
Read the entire LA Times article about Marine Lance Corporal John A. "JT" Lucente here, see the Arlington National Cemetery article about Lance Corporal Lucente here and visit his Guest Book here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Matthew J. Holley, Army, Specialist -- Rest In Peace

Matthew J. Holley, 21

Army, Specialist
Based: Ft. Campbell, Ky.
1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division
Supporting: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Died: November 15, 2005
Taji (northwest of Baghdad), Iraq
Gender: Male
Hometown: San Diego
Burial: Glen Abbey Memorial Park, Bonita, Calif.
School: Home schooled

Matthew Holley was the son every parent wants: smart, handsome, creative, and filled with purpose. A three-time AAU national karate champion, he was an exceptionally-skilled athlete. He was also a gifted amateur artist. With his talent and his drive, Matthew could have excelled in nearly any profession he chose. He chose to be a Soldier.
When Matthew enlisted in the United States Army in February of 2004, he was following the example of generations of his family. His father and his mother were both Army veterans. Between uncles, cousins, and grandfathers, the Holley family had collectively served more than 150 years in uniform since World War II, and Matthew was ready to do his part. But most importantly, Matthew was excited to be following in his father's footsteps.

The day he graduated from Air Assault School Matthew called home, saying, “I've got my wings, Dad. We can put them with yours.” Matthew put in for assignment to his father's old unit, the 101st Airborne. He got his wish and became a Screaming Eagle, just like his dad before him. He chose his military specialty, Combat Medic, because he wanted to help people, again following the example set by his father, who has been both a paramedic and a professional firefighter.

Read the entire article about 
Army Specialist Matthew J. Holley here.
Visit Matthew J. Holley's Guest Book here
read the San Diego Tribune article here
an article about his final trip home here, 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Shabbat Shalom -- The Jews of Yemen

With a kalashnikov on his side, 19-year-old Yemeni Jew, Yosef Saeed Hamdi (Right), poses for a picture with an unidentified guest on the first day of his traditional wedding party in the village of Raydah in Amran province, 70 kms north of Sanaa, on June 15, 2008. Hamdi is completing his studies in Jerusalem but he came back home to get married to a young woman from his community, according to relatives. A few hundred Jews still live in Yemen, but recent threats by rebels from the Zaidi minority made some leave their homes in the Saada province to the Sanaa region. Jews, like Muslims in tribal areas of Yemen, hold three-day wedding parties for their children who usually marry members of the same community.

Veterans Day

Thank you, Veterans.

Angel De Jesus Lucio Ramirez, Army, Sergeant -- Rest In Peace

Angel De Jesus Lucio Ramirez, 22

Army, Sergeant
Based: Giessen, Germany
1st Battalion, 16th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division
Supporting: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Died: November 11, 2006
Ramadi, Iraq
Gender: Male
Hometown: Pacoima
High School: San Fernando High (San Fernando)
Foreign Country of Birth: Mexico
Burial: Los Angeles National Cemetery, Westwood
Army Sgt. Angel de Jesus Lucio Ramirez knew how much his mother worried about him during his first combat tour in Iraq. So during his second tour he would call home two or more times a week to reassure her that all was well.

On Nov. 9, Marina Lucio answered the phone in her Bakersfield home to hear her son offer a quick hello. The 22-year-old soldier said he was going on a two-day mission and would call again when he returned.

Three days later, two soldiers in crisp Army greens knocked on her door with the news that Lucio had been killed by a roadside bomb on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

"At least I got to talk to him one last time," she said. "He said he loved us and his brothers and sisters very much. That was the last thing he told me."

Lucio was among three soldiers killed in the explosion while on a security escort mission in Ramadi, west of Baghdad. They were all assigned to the 16th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division in Giessen, Germany.

A graduate of San Fernando High School in Pacoima, Lucio moved with his family from Saltillo, Mexico, when he was 11. He adapted quickly to his new homeland and took an interest in the U.S. military.
Read the entire LA Times article about Army Sergeant Angel De Jesus Lucio Ramirez here.
Also killed on that day with Army Sergeant Angel De Jesus Lucio Ramirez were 
Staff Sergeant William S. Jackson II, 29, of Saginaw, Michigan
and Staff Sergeant Misael Martinez, 24, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Marine Corps Birthday

Title: Marine Corps Birthday
Caption: Four young Marines celebrate the Marine Corps' birthday by enjoying a beer whilst off-duty
Artist: Steve Curtis
Date: 1968
Medium: Silver Gelatin Archival Fibre Print
Copyright: © Steve Curtis

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Michael D. Martino, Marines, Major -- Rest In Peace

Michael D. Martino, 32
Marines, Major
Based: Camp Pendleton
Marine Light-Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force
Supporting: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Died: November 2, 2005
Ramadi, Iraq
Gender: Male
Hometown: Oceanside
High School: Woodbridge High (Irvine)
Burial: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va.

Here is the LA Times article on Marines Major Michael D. Martino:
At age 9, in what would become an annual ritual, Michael Martino tumbled out of bed at the crack of dawn, pedaled his bike across Irvine and spent the day watching planes at the El Toro Air Show.

"He always knew his mission in life was to be a pilot," said his mother, Sybil.

In high school, between stints on the football and wrestling teams, his hobby was assembling model aircraft. After graduating with an economics degree from UC San Diego in 1996, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and earned his wings.

When he was later dispatched to Iraq, he told his father, "If something happens, I don't want you and Mom to get mad at the military or the government. I'm doing what I love to do and what I believe in."

On Nov. 2, as Capt. Martino and his co-pilot flew a support mission near Ramadi, a shoulder-fired enemy rocket streaked into the sky, knocking their Super Cobra helicopter to the ground and killing both men, according to news reports. Al Qaeda insurgents claimed responsibility for the attack.

Martino, 32, was assigned to Marine Light-Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, his unit was attached to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).

Back home, friends and relatives recalled the Oceanside resident as a quiet, selfless man who was devoted to family, work and the Washington Redskins, his favorite football team.

In Iraq, fellow Marines nicknamed him "Oprah" because he was so good at listening to people's problems. It was a trait he developed in childhood.

"Whenever I had a nightmare, I'd go to Mike instead of our parents," said his older sister, Lauri. "He'd stay up and talk to me until I could go back to sleep."

He had a contagious smile and generous spirit, said Katie Ashford, whose husband, Brian, went through flight school with Martino and served in the same squadron. "I've never known anyone to love their friends unconditionally, but Mike did," she said.

Martino also had a playful side. In September, after learning that high school pal Scott Tarlo had to pay $130,000 in estate taxes after the death of a parent, Martino told him the sum would pay for one of the Hellfire missiles carried by his helicopter. A few weeks later, Tarlo received a photo of Martino next to a missile painted with Tarlo's name and the message, "USMC thanks you."

Born in 1973 on the Marshall Islands, where his parents worked as military contractors, Martino was the youngest of three children. When he was 8, the family moved to Irvine.

At Woodbridge High School he joined the football team and was nicknamed "Flea" for his small size and tenacious play.

After college, he signed up as a Marine and eventually was assigned to a light-attack helicopter squadron based at Camp Pendleton.

In 2004, during his first tour of duty in Iraq, he called in airstrikes on enemy positions in Fallouja, earning a Navy Commendation Medal and a nomination for a Bronze Star.

But Martino wasn't hardened by combat, his mother said. He risked his own safety to rescue civilians and consulted a chaplain about "the anguish he felt for killing people," she said. The chaplain told him he was a peacekeeper, as described in the Bible.

Martino's second tour of duty began a few weeks ago, this time as a helicopter pilot. Before he shipped out, his parents visited him at Camp Pendleton and had "a sinking feeling it would be the last time we saw him," his mother said.

Martino will be buried Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. In addition to his parents and sister, he is survived by a brother, Robert; and two nieces.
Read Michael Davis Martino's mother's tribute here.
Find pictures here
and read more about Marines Major Michael David Martino here and  here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Karina Sotelo Lau, Army, Private 1st Class -- Rest In Peace

Karina Sotelo Lau , 20
Army, Private 1st Class
Based: Ft. Hood, Texas
16th Signal Battalion
Supporting: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Died: November 2, 2003
Fallouja (near), Iraq
Gender: Female
Hometown: Livingston
High School: Livingston High (Livingston)
Burial: Turlock Memorial Park, Turlock, Calif.

Pfc. Lau, 20, died Nov. 2 in Iraq with 15 other soldiers when a transport helicopter, taking them to the Baghdad Airport for home leave in the United States, was struck by a shoulder-fired missile. Lau didn't tell her parents she would be returning home from Iraq on leave; she wanted to surprise them for her 21st birthday.
As the casualties slowly mount in Iraq and the dead trickle home, the impact is beginning to be felt in towns across America. Wednesday was Livingston's turn.

Townspeople -- co-workers of Lau's parents from nearby packing plants, schoolmates who performed with her in the Livingston High marching band, former teachers -- gathered in the church as Father Harvey Fonseca spoke of the young soldier's tragic trip home in a coffin.

Lau's father, Augustin, is ethnically Chinese, and her mother is Mexican. However, both parents were born in Mexico, and Spanish is their first language. West said Karina Lau came into the class speaking mostly Spanish but by the end of the year was registering the highest scores on English tests.

Most of the people in the working-class Merced County town of more than 11,000 have jobs in the nearby Foster Farms chicken-processing plants, the Gallo Winery or the other large food-processing facilities that flank California Highway 99.

The jobs and other agricultural opportunities have attracted one of the state's most diverse populations.

Several churches hold services in Portuguese, catering to that group of immigrants. Mennonites have three congregations surrounding Livingston and a school that goes through the 10th grade. Punjabi Sikhs operate three temples, called gurdwaras, here.

As in many valley towns, Spanish is the dominant language of the streets. About 65% of Livingston's population is Latino. St. Jude's, with attached parochial school, has 8,000 members, most of them Latino.

Looking at the mourners in his church Wednesday, Fonseca, a descendant of Portuguese immigrants, marveled at what he saw as the cohesion of his town compared to the violent chaos that brought down Karina Lau.
Read the entire LA Times article about Army Private 1st Class Karina Sotelo Lau here and find more at Freedom Remembered, Military Times and Fallen Heroes. Visit Private Lau's Guest Book and find her on a FaceBook page dedicated to American Women Veterans.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Allan M. Cundanga Espiritu, Navy, Petty Officer 2nd Class -- Rest In Peace

Navy, Petty Officer 2nd Class
Based: Camp Lejeune, N.C.
2nd Force Service Support Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force
Supporting: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Died: November 1, 2005
Ramadi, Iraq
Married, 3 children
Gender: Male
Hometown: Oxnard
High School: Channel Islands High (Oxnard)
Foreign Country of Birth: Philippines
Burial: Ivy Lawn Memorial Park, Ventura 

As a child, Allan C. Espiritu and his two younger brothers dressed up as soldiers and spent hours playing "war" in the backyard of their Oxnard home.
Years later, Espiritu achieved his childhood dream of serving in the military, first becoming a Navy medic and then helping Marines detonate roadside bombs.
It was one of those devices that killed him Oct. 31 near Ramadi, Iraq, while on his second tour of duty.
He was assigned to the 2nd Force Service Support Group (Forward), 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward)...
The eldest of three boys, Espiritu loved to play soldier as a child, and the three brothers would paint their faces in camouflage and run around the yard for hours, said his brother Neil, 27.
"We would have our BB guns and paint our faces to save the world," he said. "We thought it was something because we were athletic and competitive."
Relatives said Espiritu was a quiet man with a deep spiritual side and a loving father who saw his family and his career as the cornerstones of his life.
Espiritu was especially proud of being able to buy a new two-story house for his family in the Riverside County city of Menifee, which is within commuting distance of Camp Pendleton.
He had been married to his second wife, Theresa, 25, also a Navy petty officer second class, for less than a year. They had moved into the house in July, Neil Espiritu said.
"His dream was to have a home for his family because he didn't want his kids growing up in a military environment," his brother said. "He wanted them to have a normal life."
Espiritu doted on his daughters -- Alissa, 8; Melanie, 7; and Alexy, 5 -- and taught them to ride bikes this past summer.
"He loved to take care of them," his brother said. "It was in his nature, he was so caring."
Read the entire LA Times article about
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Allan M. Cundanga Espiritu here.
Read more at Military Times 
Freedom Remembered
and Military Health Systems.
Visit Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Allan M. Cundanga Espiritu's Guest Book.