View Full Version : Mourners recall fallen Marine's devotion, service
06-30-04, 05:33 PM
Mourners recall fallen Marine's devotion, service
By RHEA DAVIS
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
Hundreds of mourners gathered to say goodbye to Marine Lance Cpl. Pedro Contreras on Tuesday, remembering him as a devoted son and dedicated Marine.
Contreras, 27, of Jacinto City, died June 21 from wounds suffered in hostile fire in Al Anbar province in Iraq.
"We are going to miss him so much," said childhood friend Eli Aguilar after the service at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. "He was the light of the house. He cheered everyone up."
Marines in dress blues carried Contreras' coffin, draped with an American flag, into the church as friends and family watched in silence.
Contreras, a Galena Park High School graduate, is the 17th Houston-area soldier to be killed in the Iraq war. He was sent to Iraq in March.
Mourners packed every pew. Others gathered in rooms on each side of the altar and at the back of the church. After family members took Communion, a church member read a letter Contreras had written before he left for Iraq.
Written in Spanish and sent to his family, the letter expressed Contreras' gratitude to his parents for raising him. He said if he returned from Iraq, they should thank God. If he never came home, he said not to be sad because he would be in a better place.
The heartfelt message elicited tears and muffled sobs from family members and rousing applause after it was read.
Contreras joined the Marine Corps on May 7, 2001, and was a rifleman assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Near the end of the service, mourners watched a photo tribute showing Contreras when he was a child and pictures of him and his three brothers, including his twin, Noe. The latest photos were of Contreras in camouflage in the deserts of Iraq.
During his time in the military, Contreras earned several honors, including the National Defense Service Medal and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, according to the Defense Department.
At Tuesday's service, Contreras' mother was presented with his Purple Heart.
The Rev. Timothy Gray said Contreras had volunteered as an altar server.
"Pedro felt the call to serve," he said during the service. "Not just his family or his neighborhood, but the entire nation."
Rest In Peace
07-02-04, 04:13 PM
Marine killed in action had chance to leave
Orlando Sentinel ^ | 07.02.04 | Pamela J. Johnson
Marine killed in action had chance to leave The Orlando resident, wounded in April, chose to stay and fight on.
By Pamela J. Johnson Sentinel Staff Writer
July 2, 2004
Sgt. Kenneth Conde Jr. could have had a safe trip home in April after he was wounded in a gunbattle with Iraqi insurgents, winning praise for his bravery.
Instead, the 22-year-old Orlando Marine chose to complete his mission.
On Thursday, his parents learned that Conde would never return. He had been killed in action.
Theresa Conde was too traumatized to talk about her only son Thursday night, said a friend who answered the door of the family home.
Kenneth Conde Sr., himself a former Marine, was in Atlanta on business when he heard of his son's death and was flying back to Orlando.
The younger Conde's mother had said earlier that she hoped her son's wound in April would be his ticket home.
She wished that her son, who kept fighting despite a bullet piercing his shoulder, would collect his Purple Heart and get out of Iraq.
"That's my baby," Theresa Conde, 44, said in April. "I thought this was my chance to get him back. I thought, 'OK, you're a hero. Now come home.' "
But deep inside, she knew.
"He's not the type to quit," she said then. "He's looking out for his platoon. And he was angry that he was shot. It didn't surprise me that he stayed."
In April, Conde was shot in the left shoulder as he ran down a street in Ramadi, shooting at insurgents who were firing at his platoon from rooftops.
Conde's platoon was in the Sunni Triangle to retrieve wounded soldiers.
The Triangle is an area stretching from Baghdad north to Tikrit and west to Ramadi known as the "killing zone" because 80 percent of guerrilla attacks take place there.
The 27-man platoon came under fire, and Conde and the others kept firing until all of the insurgents were killed.
When Conde was shot and fell to the ground, he heard Iraqi insurgents cheering, he told his father. He became enraged.
"He had to get back up," Conde Sr., 43, recounted in April.
Bleeding profusely, Conde rose to his feet with a burst of adrenaline.
"Come on, let's get 'em!" Conde said, recounting the story to his father. He fired more rounds before falling to the ground a second time.
Then, after being treated by a corpsman, he grabbed a gun and returned to battle.
The young Marine kept fighting despite his badly injured left arm, stopping only when it became so numb he could no longer hold a rifle.
"I couldn't just leave the fight when I still could keep going," Conde told his fellow Marines.
His parents said that they had been told their son would be nominated for a Bronze Star for heroism.
"He always has to be the best at anything he does," his father said. "I told him, 'You're a better Marine than I ever was.' "
Conde's platoon, part of Mobile Assault Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, is scheduled to return home in September.
Upon his return, he had planned to marry a woman he met while based in Japan.
He was stationed in Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego.
His platoon was based near Fallujah, where Marines have been involved for months in a deadly standoff with insurgents.
Conde's death raised to at least 633 the number of U.S. troops killed in action in Iraq since last year's invasion.
"He elected to stay," his father said in an earlier interview. "He could have come home. He had the option to come home. But he didn't want any other sergeant to lead his platoon.
"I understand how you think as a Marine. But as a father, I wanted him to come home."
Pamela J. Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5171.
Rest In Peace
07-02-04, 04:53 PM
God Bless Pedro. What a Damn Waste.
Fi Brother, you will not be forgotten.
07-04-04, 08:19 AM
Ambush ends Marines' dreams
Two from Lejeune die in Afghanistan
By JOHN FRANK, Staff Writer
For Lance Cpl. Juston T. Thacker and Pfc. Daniel B. McClenney it was four years of service and out. That was the plan.
Relatives said they each had a deep dedication to their country and to the Marine Corps, but they also had other aspirations: Thacker wanted to finish college, and McClenney wanted to be a police officer.
Those dreams ended abruptly late Thursday when the Camp Lejeune Marines were ambushed in Afghanistan.
Thacker, 21, of Princeton, W.Va., and McClenney, 19, of Shelbyville, Tenn., were shot as a group of soldiers returned to camp on foot from patrolling the Afghanistan-Pakistan border near Bari Khout, the Defense Department said.
Both were part of Camp Lejeune's 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, which left North Carolina less than two months ago.
Family members remembered them Monday as two young men who died too soon but did so believing in a cause.
For Thacker, who was co-captain of his high school football team, it was his second tour abroad since enlisting in 2002.
"Whatever he believed in, he put every ounce into it," said his uncle, Kenneth Meadows. But "he didn't have a good feeling about this trip."
Thacker dropped out of Bluefield State College in West Virgnia and joined the Marines after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Meadows said.
"He wanted to join up and do what he could," he added. "I think the experience of what the nation went through after 9/11 is what motivated him."
Meadows said when Thacker's four years of service concluded he planned to finish school.
Marriage plans were also in the works. Thacker became engaged in November to Amanda Starling. His sister set them up, Starling said. She said it was hard to put into words what Thacker meant to her, but she was comforted in knowing that "he died fighting for what he believed in."
His battalion mate McClenney also was proud of his uniform.
"He wanted to be a Marine," said his father, Randy McClenney. "Not a soldier, but a Marine."
His father said he graduated from high school in May 2003 and joined in August. It was McClenney's first tour of duty.
"I kind of felt better about him going to Afghanistan than Iraq, but evidently it didn't turn out that way," McClenney said.
Growing up, McClenney worked at a horse barn and then the Farmer's Co-Op feed store in Shelbyville. He was quiet and shy, said his aunt, Becky McClenney.
McClenney's mother died three years ago from breast cancer, and he leaves behind a 15-year-old sister, Melissa.
Randy McClenney said his son never was interested in taking over the family farm; he wanted to be a police officer when he got out of the military.
"I reckon he just wanted to help other people," the father said.
Staff writer John Frank can be reached at 810-1703 or email@example.com.
Rest In Peace
07-04-04, 12:38 PM
Rest in Peace Brothers Amen
07-04-04, 04:05 PM
Manuel A. Ceniceros, 23; Killed in Hostile Action
Lance Cpl. Manuel A. Ceniceros didn't join the U.S. Marine Corps to work behind a desk. He was an infantryman, and he wore the nickname for that job — "grunt" — as a badge of honor.
"He never saw that as an insult," said his wife, Elizabeth Ceniceros, 23. "He said it's the best thing you can be in the military. He'd say, 'We're not there to push papers. We're actually there to help and fight.' "
The rifleman served in Operation Enduring Freedom after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and was fighting in Iraq's Al Anbar province June 26 when he was killed in hostile action. Ceniceros, 23, had been assigned to Regimental Combat Team 1 Headquarters Company, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton.
The longtime Santa Ana resident joined the military in 2000 to learn to be a diesel mechanic. But early on a sergeant noticed his aptitude on the firing range, said his uncle, Alfredo "Frankie" Gallegos.
An only child, Ceniceros lost his father when he was in high school. For Ceniceros, joining the Marine Corps was the beginning of a love affair with his second family.
A painfully shy teenager who hadn't distinguished himself in school, Ceniceros gained confidence and a sense of identity in the Marines. His fellow Marines were his brothers. His dog, a Labrador mix named Tank, was usually wearing some kind of Marine Corps bandanna.
Ceniceros wasn't political, but he was patriotic, identifying with comic book figure Captain America. A doll of the masked superhero was among his favorite possessions.
"My husband, for most of his life, had never felt like he owned anything or stood for anything, because he was so quiet and so shy," his wife said. "When he was in high school, he wasn't known for anything at all. But when he became a Marine, it was like he owned that."
After marrying in December 2002, however, Ceniceros started thinking about returning to civilian life and starting a family. Money was tight for the young couple, who had exchanged vows at the Los Angeles County Hall of Records.
For the first few months of married life, Ceniceros continued living at Camp Pendleton. Eventually he moved in with his wife at her grandmother's house in East Los Angeles and commuted to the base.
When he left for Iraq in February, his wife said, Ceniceros hoped to help liberate an oppressed people. But he also thought the combat pay might help fund a starter home, a formal church wedding and fertility treatments for Elizabeth, who had undergone surgery to remove an ovarian tumor in April 2003.
Looking toward the future, Ceniceros saw himself settled in his hometown, surrounded by lots of kids and perhaps working for the Santa Ana Police Department, Elizabeth said.
Ceniceros' funeral will be held Tuesday at Our Lady of Solitude Catholic Church in East Los Angeles, where he had planned to have his big wedding. Visitation is scheduled for 5 to 9 p.m. Monday at Guerra Gutierrez Mortuary, 5800 E. Beverly Blvd., in Los Angeles.
Ceniceros is also survived by his mother, Angela De La Cruz; his aunt, Stella Gallegos; and cousins Alfred Gallegos Jr., Victor D. Gallegos, Daniel R. Gallegos and Freddy Gallegos.
Rest In Peace
07-04-04, 09:31 PM
Rest in peace. Your families lost you but gained pride in the way you conducted yourselves. Semper Fi.
Rest In Peace brothers, you will be sincerly missed by all, condolence's to all of our brothers' families. SEMPER FIDELIS!!!