May 18-19

Cpl. Douglas Jose Marencoreyes, USMC

The Department of Defense announced on May 21 that Cpl. Douglas Jose Marencoreyes, 28, of Chino, Calif., was killed May 18 in Iraq, when the large transport truck he was riding in rolled over approximately 30 km southeast of Al Samawah. Marencoreyes was a reservist assigned to the Light Armored Vehicle - Air Defense Battery, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, Calif. The incident is under investigation.

May 19


The Associated Press ~ BAGHDAD, Iraq May 20 Four U.S. Marines on a resupply mission were killed when their helicopter crashed into a canal in central Iraq and a fifth drowned trying to save them, the U.S. military said Tuesday. The Ch-46 Sea-Knight helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff Monday afternoon in the Shat al-Hillah Canal in Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, U.S. Central Command said in a statement. Two Marines on the canal's banks jumped into the water to help, and one died trying, the military said. Iraqis and other Marines on the scene pulled those two from the water, Centcom said. A recovery effort was under way for the others Tuesday afternoon, the military said. The cause was under investigation, though the military said it appeared to be an accident. The victims' names were not immediately released so their families could be notified. The Sea-Knight is a workhorse helicopter used by the Navy and Marine Corps to move cargo or troops. It normally operates with a crew of four and has been in service for more than three decades. On May 9, three American soldiers were killed and a fourth injured when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed in the Tigris River not far from the northern city of Tikrit during the rescue of an Iraqi child wounded in an explosion.

On May 22nd, The Department of Defense identified the four Marines killed on May 19 in the CH-46 Sea-Knight helicopter that went down shortly after take-off in the Shatt Al Hillah Canal, in Iraq. The helicopter was conducting a resupply mission in support of civil military operations. They are:

Capt. Andrew David Lamont, 31, of Eureka, Calif.
Lance Cpl. Jason William Moore, 21, of San Marcos, Calif.
1st Lt. Timothy Louis Ryan, 30, of Aurora, Ill.
Staff Sgt. Aaron Dean White, 27, of Shawnee, Okla.

The crew was assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron - 364, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, Camp Pendleton, Calif. The cause of the mishap is under investigation.

The Department of Defense announced on May 21 that Sgt. Kirk Allen Straseskie, 23, of Beaver Dam, Wis., drowned May 19 in a canal near Al Hillah, Iraq, when he attempted to rescue the crewmembers of a Marine CH-46 helicopter that went down in the canal. Straseskie was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Captain Andrew David La Mont, USMC

Capt. Andrew David La Mont, 31, of Eureka, California

NBC San Diego, May 23 ~ La Mont, a Marine with a passion for flying "died doing what he loved" when the transport helicopter he was piloting crashed in central Iraq, his brother said Thursday. "There were many facets to Andrew, but flying was his one big love," his brother Thomas La Mont said in a telephone interview. "He was there because he wanted to be doing what he was doing. We are all very proud of his service to the country, our country."

La Mont graduated from Eureka High School in 1988 and joined the Marines under a delayed entry program while he was a student at San Diego State University a decade ago. He spent the summer attending boot camp, and after graduating began his pilot training.

The youngest of nine children, La Mont was born at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, where his father, James, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, was stationed. He was the only one of the siblings to follow their father's path into the military. "He was the baby of the family, literally," said Thomas, who is seven years older than his brother but closest to him in age.

As a Marine, La Mont served in Kosovo and was part of the helicopter detail that flew the first Marines into Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "He saw quite a bit of action over there," his brother said. The La Mont family has two other members serving in the Middle East, including Andrew La Mont's nephew, Christopher, who was scheduled to return home from Iraq on Friday.

On April 3, as U.S. forces prepared to enter Baghdad for the final stages of the war, KGO-AM in San Francisco broadcast a live radio interview with La Mont before he flew to Baghdad to help evacuate injured troops.

"Hello to everyone in Eureka, California," he said. "I look forward to coming back." La Mont was not married and had no children. He is survived by his parents, James and Vivian La Mont of Eureka; his brothers Christopher La Mont and Thomas La Mont of Eureka, Jonathan La Mont of Santa Clara; and sisters Susan Irani of Maryland, Cynthia Silvers of Arizona, Kathleen Roberts of Virginia, and Mary Loudy of Florida.


The Times-Standard, May 23, 2003

EUREKA -- North Coast leaders Thursday honored Marine Capt. Andrew La Mont, a Eureka native who was killed in a helicopter crash in Central Iraq on Monday.

The flag was lowered to half-staff at City Hall and all city offices and Mayor Peter LaVallee is sending a letter expressing condolences on behalf of the City Council and staff. La Mont was the son of former City Councilman James La Mont, who served on the council representing the 3rd Ward from 1986 to 1990.

"The Mayor, Council and City of Eureka staff extend our deepest condolences to the La Mont family," city officials said in a press release issued Thursday. The city's flag will be flown at half staff through noon on Memorial Day on Monday.

In Washington, D.C., North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson plans to read a memorial statement for La Mont into the Congressional Record on the House floor. Thompson, a Vietnam veteran, is also sending a letter expressing his condolences to the La Mont family.

La Mont, 32, and at least three other Marines were on a resupply mission in Central Iraq on Monday afternoon when shortly after takeoff their CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter crashed into a canal southeast of Karbala. All aboard were killed, as well as another Marine who drowned in the canal trying to save the crash victims. La Mont's body was recovered on Tuesday, marking the first confirmed North Coast casualty of the Iraq war.

La Mont graduated from Eureka High School in 1989 and from San Diego State University in 1994, majoring in criminal justice. He also enrolled in Marine Corps officer's training school while in college, having considered eventually entering the FBI or CIA. But when he took service entrance exams, La Mont did so well he qualified to become a pilot.

After finishing college, La Mont entered active duty as a lieutenant and completed flight school in Pensacola, Fla. During almost a decade of military service, La Mont was involved in the conflicts in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. He also helped in the relief efforts after a major earthquake in Turkey in 1999.

During the Iraq war, La Mont's job was to fly wounded servicemen to hospitals in Kuwait.

La Mont had been stationed at Camp Pendleton prior to being shipped to Iraq before the war. His parents, James and Vivian, of Eureka, are at his home in Camp Pendleton awaiting further word from Marine authorities.

The La Mont family is expecting some good news. Andrew La Mont's nephew, Marine Sgt. Christopher La Mont, who has been serving in the Middle East with the Marines' 1st Expeditionary Unit since October, is scheduled to arrive stateside in the next few days.

Along with Andrew and Christopher La Mont, Navy Cmdr. David Buckey, a cousin, is also serving in the Persian Gulf.

A memorial service for the helicopter crew is being planned. Funeral arrangements for La Mont are being handled by Sanders Funeral Home in Eureka.

Lance Cpl. Jason William Moore, USMC

Lance Cpl. Jason William Moore, 21, of San Marcos, California.

1st Lieutenant Timothy Ryan, USMC, Normal, Illinois, May 22, 2003

1st Lt. Timothy Ryan, a 1997 ISU music graduate, died in Operation Iraqi Freedom Monday. The 30-year-old Ryan was one of four Marines aboard a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter that crashed into a canal about 60 miles south of Baghdad during a re-supply mission. Everyone aboard died, and a fifth Marine was killed trying to rescue the crew. Funeral arrangements are pending.

David Collier, an assistant professor of music at ISU, taught Ryan for five years. "Tim was a good-natured, loving individual. He was a good friend to his classmates," Collier said. "And he never lost sight of the fact that other people are very important in life. He was compassionate." Over the years, Collier learned to rely on Ryan when he needed help setting up equipment or preparing for a guest ensemble. Ryan was reliable and always willing to lend a hand.

Ryan was a percussionist in the Big Red Marching Machine, the pep band and Wind Symphony, so he got to know Collier's family. Karen Collier, David's wife, remembers a "gentle giant." "He was one of the most gentle people I know. He was always so kind to my husband -- very calm and never upset about things. He was always smiling."

But that kindness didn't hide a steely determination. David Collier noted Ryan originally came to ISU to be a high school band director. About halfway through, he dropped the education aspect of his major: "It was about his last two or three semesters when he came to me and said, 'I'm going to take a military audition for the Marine's band.'"

Ryan told Collier he wanted to be in the U.S. Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps, and he wasn't all talk: Collier helped Ryan make a video of his work to send to the corps. Then, he stood back as Ryan "went after it with a lot of persistence and ambition and diligence." "He was always the kind of guy who knew what he wanted and knew what he didn't want," Karen Collier said. "His dream was the Drum and Bugle Corps. When he made up his mind, that was it."

That's why the Colliers weren't surprised when, just two weeks after they attended Ryan's May 25, 1997, wedding, he left for boot camp. He'd been accepted that spring to play percussion in the elite, 80- member Drum and Bugle Corps and wasn't about to miss his chance. "It was one of those wild, six-month situations where he found out he was accepted, he enlisted, he graduated and he got married," David Collier said.

During his training, Ryan also discovered a love of flying. He graduated from the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School at Quantico, Va. and was deployed to the Persian Gulf in early February.

Though Collier will miss his former student, he carries a happy image in his mind. "He was a big kind of teddy bear of a guy. I picture him running three days a week to get ready for boot camp -- that was a real change for me." "But as a teacher, you get a satisfaction of seeing a student really commit to something and go for it with all of their person."

Staff Sgt. Aaron Dean White, USMC

Staff Sgt. Dean, aged 27, of Shawnee, Oklahoma, died when his CH-46 Sea-Knight helicopter went down in the Shatt Al Hillah Canal in Iraq shortly after take-off. The helicopter was conducting a resupply mission in support of civil military operations. He was assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron - 364, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, Camp Pendleton, California. Died on May 19, 2003.

Sgt. Kirk Allen Straseskie, USMC

Aged 23, of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.

Washington Post -- Of this, the family and friends of Marine Sgt. Kirk Allen Straseskie are sure: He is wearing his dress blues and standing guard at the gates of heaven. Because that's where he said he would be if he were killed, and he was always a man of his word. A week ago, Straseskie, 23, was standing on the bank of an Iraqi canal when a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter crashed into the water shortly after takeoff. According to the Pentagon, he immediately plunged in to try to save the crew of four fellow Marines. Iraqi fire engines are seen at the site of a roadside attack on a U.S. Army Humvee on the main airport road in Baghdad, May 26, 2003 in which three soldiers were wounded. One U.S. soldier was killed and four were wounded in Iraqi ambushes on Monday, the U.S. military said. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi Instead, they died together -- some of the 23 U.S. soldiers, airmen and Marines who have lost their lives since President Bush declared on May 1 that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

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