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thedrifter
11-25-06, 07:10 AM
Canton Marine died doing what he loved
Heath Warner killed Wednesday in Iraq
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Diane Suchetka
Plain Dealer Reporter

When Heath Warner was home in Canton in August, on leave from the Marines, his family threw an early birthday party for him because he was about to ship out to Iraq.

"We knew he wouldn't be here," said his father, Scott Warner. "So we decided to have his 20th birthday party then."

He would have turned 20 on Jan. 2.

The private first class was killed in Iraq the day before Thanksgiving and 10 weeks after he flew into the Middle East.

"I want people to know that Heath believed in what he was doing," his father said Friday in a telephone interview. "He believed in the fight he was involved in, and he was willing to make the sacrifice. We honor that sacrifice. He's our hero."

Warner was killed while conducting combat operations against anti-Iraqi forces in Haqlaniyah, in Al Anbar province, his father said.

He was hit by a makeshift bomb. Two other Marines, who have not been identified, also died in the incident.

According to a June 23 article in Defend America, a Department of Defense newsletter on the war, some of the fiercest violence by insurgents in the Al Anbar province occurs in Haqlaniyah, a city along the Euphrates River northwest of Baghdad.

Warner, a 2005 graduate of McKinley High School, was a break dancer who performed at community and school events throughout the area and taught others at the Living Fountain Dance Company in Canton.

He loved exotic foods and zombie movies, taught himself German and Japanese and loved hanging out with family and friends.

"He didn't care what anybody else thought about him, he just did what he wanted to do," said one of his closest friends, Brad Mowery, 17. "He had his own way, his own style."

On his last visit home, he talked to Brad about the possibility of dying and how he wanted to be remembered.

"He doesn't want people to feel sorry for him," Brad said. "He wants people to realize he was doing what he wanted to do. He was living his dream. How many people get to live their dream?"

Warner joined the Marines while in high school, spurred on, his father said, by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

He was deployed to Iraq on the fifth anniversary of the attacks.

He was devoted to helping others, his father said, a trait best illustrated by the instructions he left behind on the use of his death benefits. He asked his parents to use them to pay for his two brothers to go to college.

Warner is survived by his father; his mother, Melissa; and his brothers, Chandler, 14, and Ashton, 7.

Arrangements for services are pending. His father asked Northeast Ohioans to display American flags in his son's honor and to support those still fighting.

"When the reality of what's happening over there hits, you really realize what's going on over there," Scott Warner said. "We're just asking the community to keep praying for these young men and women serving over there."

Then he read from the only letter his son sent from Iraq. It arrived late last month.

"I love you all," it ends, followed by a phrase in Arabic.

"That means goodbye," Heath Warner wrote.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

dsuchetk@plaind.com, 216-999-4987

Ellie