Marine who died surfing on Okinawa recently received a meritorious promotion to corporal

Then-Lance Cpl. Rene PonceAvalos, right, helps a simulated casualty during a humanitarian assistance and disaster-relief exercise at Okinawa's Kin Blue training area, Sept. 9, 2020. PonceAvalos died Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, after surfing near Ikei Island.


By MATTHEW M. BURKE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 2, 2021

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A Marine who went missing while surfing over the weekend, and was later pronounced dead at an Okinawa hospital, was remembered Tuesday as a beloved member of Combat Logistics Battalion 31 whose spirit “represented the best the Marine Corps has to offer.”

Cpl. Rene PonceAvalos, a 22-year-old engineer equipment operator from Beaverton, Ore., went missing Sunday afternoon while surfing near Okinawa’s Ikei Island, according to a statement Monday from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

PonceAvalos was found unresponsive two hours later and rushed to the hospital.

No cause of death has been released. The Marine Corps is investigating the incident, according to a statement Tuesday.

“On behalf of Combat Logistics Battalion 31, we extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Corporal Rene PonceAvalos,” the battalion’s commander, Lt. Col. Stanley Calixte, said in the statement.

PonceAvalos joined the Marines in 2019 and rose quickly through the ranks “with the respect and admiration of peers and superiors alike,” Calixte said. PonceAvalos was meritoriously promoted to corporal on Dec. 2.

“Always eager to volunteer for both operations and community service, his motivation and spirit represented the best the Marine Corps has to offer,” Calixte said. “Loved by his fellow Marines and Sailors at Combat Logistics Battalion 31, he will be greatly missed.”

PonceAvalos was surfing with five fellow Marines near Ikei Island at about 2:40 p.m. Sunday, when he became separated from the group and disappeared, the Marines said Monday. The group contacted local authorities and the Japan Coast Guard for assistance.

The coast guard found PonceAvalos at approximately 4:55 p.m. about 325 feet offshore, the Marines said Tuesday. PonceAvalos was pronounced dead approximately an hour later at Nakagami Hospital.

PonceAvalos’ personal awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Armed Forces Service Medal, Tuesday’s statement said.

Twitter: @MatthewMBurke1

Then-Lance Cpl. Rene PonceAvalos, right, gets his temperature taken as he boards the USS New Orleans at White Beach Naval Base, Okinawa, Aug. 18, 2020.