Family, friends remember Marines killed in explosion
On Dec. 1, 10 Marines were killed in an explosion near Fallujah. They had gathered in an abandoned flour factory that they sometimes used as a combat outpost.
It was soon after a promotion ceremony that one Marine stepped on a pressure plate and detonated a makeshift device made with four artillery shells and buried in two spots.
Though the Marines were wearing full body armor, 11 were injured and 10 killed. These reports were gathered from media around the nation:
Lance Cpl. John M. Holmason, Surprise, Ariz.Holmason, 20, was working at an Applebee’s Restaurant in Surprise when he decided to join the Marines in September 2004, according to The New York Times.
“He knew that because of the war, there was a good possibility that he would go to Iraq,” his grandmother, Julie Holmason, told the newspaper. “I talked to him very long and hard about that.”
But Holmason was determined; he told his grandmother that he knew deployment was a possibility, “‘but that’s what I want to do,’” she recalled.
Lance Cpl. David A. Huhn, Portland, Mich.Huhn, 24, was a 2000 graduate of the Portland School District. He enlisted in the Marines in February 2004, following in the footsteps of his brother Kevin Huhn, 25, a former Marine.
Kevin Huhn told The Lansing State Journal that his brother, whom he described as his “best friend,” enjoyed playing video games and cards, and watching movies featuring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.
An aunt, Linda Friddle of Nashville, Mich., told the newspaper that Huhn “was a hard worker,” who “loved his country and he wanted to protect it. He was very proud to be a Marine.”
Huhn’s death is the third major blow to his family since 1990, when his sister Jaime died in a farming accident, the newspaper said. His father, Larry Huhn, died in February 2005.
Lance Cpl. Adam W. Kaiser, Naperville, Ill.Kaiser’s family planned to leave their Christmas decorations up until the 19-year-old came home from Iraq, possibly as soon as January, his father, Wade Kaiser, told The New York Times.
“He was a hard one to read sometimes,” his father told the newspaper, “but I always knew that when it came time for him to graduate from high school, even with the war on terror, he was going to join. That’s what he wanted to do.”
Kaiser joined the Marines “because they’re supposedly harder to get into and have a wonderful reputation and esprit de corps,” his father told WLS-TV in Chicago.
Among Kaiser’s survivors are his two sisters. One of them is his 19-year-old twin.
Lance Cpl. Robert A. Martinez, Splendora, TexasMartinez, 20, knew he wanted to join the military as early as sixth grade, his mother told The New York Times.
“He wanted to protect his family,” Kelly Hunt said. “He said he was doing it for us.”
True to his word, Martinez signed up for the delayed entry program in his junior year at Cleveland High School. He left for boot camp in June 2003, just two days after graduation.
Martinez was on his second Iraq deployment when he was killed. The week before his death, he telephoned Kelly Hunt and instructed her to shop for a lavish “carat and a half” diamond ring, with which he intended to propose to his girlfriend as soon as he came home, his mother told the Los Angeles Times.
Lance Cpl. Andrew G. Patten, Byron, Ill.Patten, 19, enlisted after graduating from Byron High School in 2004. A small-town boy — Byron has a population of just 3,000 — Patten had initially registered for classes at a nearby college, but changed his mind and joined the Marines, his father, Alan Patten, told The New York Times.
“Originally, I didn’t want him to go in. But it’s your kid, and when he’s made up his mind, you have to support him,” his mother, Gayle Naschansky, told the newspaper. “He was very excited to go to Iraq and see some action.”
Patten “was committed to being a good student,” Ben Dalton, his high school football coach, told WLS-TV in Chicago.
“He was committed to being the best person he could be.”
Sgt. Andy A. Stevens, Tomah, Wis.Stevens, 29, was on his third deployed to Iraq. He was the oldest of the group at age 29 though not the most senior because he had left the Marine Corps for a few years and then returned to serve again after the 9/11 attacks.
Stevens, a scout sniper, joined the Marines in June 1995, immediately after graduating from Tomah High School, according to the La Crosse (Wis.) Tribune.
While in high school, Stevens competed on the track team as a pole-vaulter and sang in the school choir.
“He was such a hard worker and so much fun,” his high school guidance counselor, Karen Riggs, told the Tribune. “He had such commitment.”
Lance Cpl. Craig N. Watson, Union City, Mich.Watson, 21, a 2003 graduate of Union City High School, was inspired to join the Marines after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, his mother, Shirley Watson, told The Battle Creek (Mich.) Enquirer.
A determined practical joker, according to his mother (Saran Wrap was a favorite tool), Watson was also quick to take on difficult challenges.
He often wrestled above his weight class if it would help his varsity team to victory, his high school wrestling coach, Paul Smeltzer told the newspaper. He was also an All-Conference football player.
Family friend Eva Plato remembers Watson as being “awesome.”
“You just wanted to hug him,” Plato told the newspaper. “He was just that kind of person. I can’t explain it.”
Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Clay, Pensacola, Fla.Clay belonged to the Junior ROTC program at Washington High School before enlisting in the Marines shortly after his graduation in 1996, Alex Golovko, Clay’s high school cross-country running coach, told the Pensacola News Journal.
“I thought [Clay] was very sharp,” Golovko told the newspaper. “He even looked like a Marine in high school. He was very well-disciplined.”
Clay, who was married and lived in California, is survived by his wife, Lisa, his parents, Sara Jo and Bud Clay, and three sisters, including 2003 U.S. Naval Academy graduate Katy Clay. A fourth sister died last year, the News Journal said.
Lance Cpl. Scott T. Modeen, Hennepin, Minn.Modeen enlisted after the Sept. 11 attacks, and was on his second tour of Iraq, according to The New York Daily News.
The 24-year-old Marine came from a large family, including nine brothers and sisters and 26 aunts and uncles.
Within two days of the announcement of his death, friends, family and strangers had filled 17 pages of an Internet guestbook, www.legacy.com, with condolences and memories — including of the Perkins Restaurant where his mother also worked; and the time the young Marine had friends in stitches by chasing a household mouse with a three-iron.
“Scott had the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever known,” wrote Jill Day, a friend.
Modeen’s uncle and aunt, Marcie and Ed Robichaud, wrote, “Those people [who fought in World War II] would in our lifetime be called the ‘Greatest Generation.’
“We believe Scott’s sacrifice is no less great than that of these past heroes and patriots, and he will stand beside them in what we believe is eternal life.”
Cpl. Anthony T. McElveen, LittleFalls, Minn.McElveen graduated from Little Falls High School in Collegeville, Minn., the school he returned to in June to see his little sister graduate, according to a Minnesota Public Radio story.
McElveen’s high school social studies teacher, Randy Tabatt, told MPR that McElveen was “a hardworking and dedicated student who loved to talk about politics,” and who knew his wanted to be a Marine by the time he was a junior.
He also loved music, playing saxophone in his high school band for four years, his former teacher said.
When McElveen, 20, came back to visit his alma mater last year, he wore his Marine uniform.
“When he came through the hallways people were in awe of him,” Tabatt told the radio program. “When he came into the classroom and spoke the students were very respectful of what he had to say.”
McElveen, who was on his second tour in Iraq, was married in February. His wife, another native of Little Falls, serves in the U.S. Navy, MPR said.