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thedrifter
10-13-05, 06:35 AM
Least-likely Marine is one who is killed
Thursday, October 13, 2005
By Milan Simonich, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

BELOIT, Ohio -- At West Branch High School in the rolling farm country here, the sports teams are called Warriors. The name took on new meaning in 2003, when 10 of the 100 boys in the senior class joined the Marine Corps after graduation.

"They weren't all best friends. They kind of heard the call after 9/11," said Peg Kinnick, a school counselor.

Of the 10 who enlisted, Mrs. Kinnick said, Daniel McVicker surprised her most. With his pierced ears, love of fast cars and regular roles in West Branch's spring musicals, he did not fit the Marine stereotype.

But everybody who talked to Danny McVicker came to understand the most powerful of his dozens of interests was a desire to serve in the military.

"He really wanted it," Mrs. Kinnick said.

Lance Cpl. McVicker volunteered three times for duty in Iraq before he was deployed there Aug. 23. Insurgents killed him and an Alabama Marine in a roadside bombing Oct. 6 near Al Qaim.

Cpl. McVicker, who was 20, will be buried next week. Arrangements still were being worked out yesterday.

At the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, N.C., Cpl. McVicker's job was refueling jets. His father, Mark McVicker, said Cpl. McVicker felt guilty about being stateside with a war going on in Iraq.

"After Danny volunteered the second time and still wasn't sent over there, that really bothered him," Mr. McVicker said. "I'm thinking, 'Thank you, God,' but he really wanted to go. He said, 'I feel I need to go. I don't feel right being here.' "

His decision to enlist in the military was sealed about the time he got his driver's license. His class at West Branch had just begun its junior year when the terror attacks occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.

Beloit, 65 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, has no downtown. Its tallest buildings are silos that dot farms. West Branch students come from a rural area covering 134 square miles. Most had never seen the World Trade Center or the Pentagon, but news coverage of hijacked planes crashing into those landmark buildings moved them.

"That was the motivating factor for so many of our students to join the Marines," said West Branch School Superintendent Scott Weingart.

The Marine recruiter in Mahoning County, Ohio, did not have to work hard to sign the boys from West Branch. Instead, they sought him out, Mrs. Kinnick said.

Nine joined the Marine Corps and the 10th, Tim Hardy, enlisted in the Marine Reserve. Mr. Hardy, who served in Iraq for six months, is home now and will be a pallbearer at Cpl. McVicker's funeral.

Mark McVicker said his son investigated all branches of the military before settling on the Marines. Eleven family members accompanied him to his enlistment ceremony in Cleveland.

Mr. McVicker said he was struck that day by how many other recruits were alone, teenagers fending for themselves. He said he remembered feeling happy that his one would have a family to come home to once his four years of active duty were completed.

The son of divorced parents, Cpl. McVicker lived with his mother, Carey Meissner, and her husband, Bill. But he remained equally close to his father and stepmother, Irma McVicker. He also is survived by a sister, Mollie, 17, and a stepbrother, Eddie Ricci, 14.

West Branch students elected him Assistant Warrior Chief, making him a school mascot and spirit leader. He made B's and C's in his classes, but showed more interest in choir, which led to his performing in school musicals and with a West Branch contingent at Disney World.

John Zamarelli, his music teacher, said Cpl. McVicker was the rarest of teenagers -- one so secure that he never worried about what anybody thought of him.

His father agreed with that assessment. "Danny was very much an individual. When he got out of the Marines he was going to become a chef."

Three days before he died, Cpl. McVicker sent relatives an ominous e-mail. He said "a big to-do" was coming, and he might be out of touch during October. "If something should happen -- and nothing will -- you'll be contacted," he said.

Since his death, makeshift memorials to Cpl. McVicker have sprung up at West Branch High. Mr. Zamarelli said the school will formalize a tribute by naming a senior award in his honor.

(Milan Simonich can be reached at msimonich@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1956.)

Ellie