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thedrifter
08-20-08, 07:10 AM
Posted on Wed, Aug. 20, 2008
Grover man found a goal in Marines, friend says
AnnMarie Cornejo
Jacob Toves of Grover Beach joined the Marines later in life than many — about eight years after high school.

But two people who knew him growing up said that when he enlisted, he found a focus for his life.

“Joining the Marines was something very personal for him,” said Yoni Tamaki, who had been friends with Toves since both were 3. “He wanted to make the world a better place.”

Toves, a lance corporal, was

killed Thursday in Afghanistan along with two fellow Marines, military officials announced Monday.

The 27-year-old joined the Marine Corps in November 2006 and had only been deployed in Afghanistan a few months, according to 1st Lt. Curtis Williamson, a public af fairs officer with the Marines in Twentynine Palms,

near Palm Springs. It was the first overseas deployment for Toves, Williamson said.

He was assigned to the 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, part of the 1st Marine Division stationed at Twentynine Palms.

Toves was a combat engineer, trained to handle explosives and engineering equipment while assisting other deployed Marine units, Williamson said.

The Department of Defense said Toves died in the Helmand province in southwest Afghanistan, along with Lance Cpl. Juan Lopez-Castaneda, 19, of Arizona and Cpl. Anthony Mihalo, 23, of Illinois.

Military officials have not released details of the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

Toves was part of a detachment serving with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, a reinforced infantry battalion with more than 1,200 Marines, Williamson said. The unit’s stay was recently extended, and it is scheduled to return in November.

Williamson said Toves had been awarded the Purple Heart, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.

However, he did not say whether any or all of the awards were given before or after Toves’ death.

South County life

Toves was raised in the Five Cities area. He attended kindergarten at Grover Beach Elementary School and later went to Ocean View Elementary, Paulding Middle and Arroyo Grande High schools, all in Arroyo Grande.

Through school, he was close with Tamaki, she told The Tribune on Tuesday, saying she first began referring to him as “my Jacob” in first grade.

“He was the closest thing I have had to a brother, and we were best friends all through elementary and high school,” Tamaki said. “ … He was silly and goofy, and he could make anyone laugh.”

The two stayed in touch by e-mail while Toves was deployed overseas.

Tamaki, who now lives in Southern California, said she learned of Toves’ death through a mutual friend. The three had remained close since elementary school.

“To say that we miss him is just such an understatement,” Tamaki said. “He was so loved by us, and we all just assumed that we would grow old together.”

Arroyo Grande High School teacher Randy Fiser taught Toves architecture in his senior year, also Fiser’s first year as a teacher.

“He was a hard worker and a real quiet guy with a good sense of humor,” Fiser said, “but he wasn’t really loud about it.

“He had a great smile. I just keep thinking about what a great smile he had.”

Fiser said Toves contacted him years after graduating, asking the teacher to write him a recommendation letter to join the Marines.

“We hadn’t been in contact for years when he asked me to write the letter, and I did,” Fiser said. “Now I regret that.”

Toves was steadfast in his decision and seemed to have found a sense of direction, Fiser said.

The two lost touch shortly after Toves joined the Marines. Fiser said he now plans to reestablish contact with other former students he knows are serving abroad.

“It is tough to lose a student,” Fiser said. “You know that just by the nature of kids that some of them will be injured or hurt or die young, because of the risks they take. But it is never easy; you take it personal.”

Ellie