June 23

Pfc. Veashna Muy, USMC

Pfc. Veashna Muy, 20, of Los Angeles, assigned to Headquarters Company, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C., was killed June 23 when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near his convoy vehicle in Fallujah, Iraq.

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LOS ANGELES ~~ Associated Press ~~ Pfc. Veashna Muy joined the Marines after his enlistment with the Navy was delayed twice. Muy, 20, of Long Beach, signed up hoping eventually to obtain a college education, said his uncle Thongin Muy. The Marine died last month in a suicide-bomb attack on his convoy in Iraq. Muy was part of a convoy that was picking up Marines from different checkpoints when a suicide bomber attacked his truck, his uncle said. Five Marines, two of them women, and a female sailor were killed in the attack. Muy, who graduated from Jordan High School, joined the Marines in May 2004. He was stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. His uncle said Muy was an avid fisherman. "Pier or lake, anything that involved fishing he enjoyed," Thongin Muy said. "He was a very good kid."

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Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Pfc. Veashna Muy of Los Angeles:

"Losing a member of our armed forces is a painful reminder of the high cost of freedom. Pfc. Muy served his country with unwavering commitment for which our nation will be eternally grateful. Maria and I send our condolences to Veashna's family who has lost a cherished loved one."

In honor of Muy, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Cpl. Chad W. Powell, USMC

Cpl. Chad W. Powell, 22, of West Monroe, Louisiana, assigned to Headquarters Company, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C., was killed June 23 when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near his convoy vehicle in Fallujah, Iraq.

Lance Cpl. Holly A. Charette, USMC

Lance Cpl. Holly A. Charette, 21, of Cranston, Rhode Island, assigned to Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C., was killed June 23 when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near her convoy vehicle in Fallujah, Iraq.

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CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq, (June 27, 2005) -- 2nd Marine Division ~~~ One of the most uplifting experiences for deployed service members is receiving an envelope or parcel during mail call – especially in the barren deserts of Iraq. But that feeling will never again be the same now that Lance Cpl. Holly Charette is gone.
~~~ A memorial service was held, June 27, for the 2nd Marine Division Headquarters Battalion mail clerk who died in a suicide car-bombing attack on a convoy she was in only a few days prior.
~~~ Charette’s friends, comrades and leaders filtered into the chapel’s air-conditioned vestibule. The cool air was a welcoming sanctuary from the dead heat of the day, but it didn’t seem to lift the wilted spirits of the mourners who gathered into the seats and crowded the doorways to pay homage to their fallen sister.
~~~ A lone bugler played the ‘Church Call’ as the service members took their seats and places. Division Chaplain Capt. Mark L. Tidd welcomed everyone and gave the invocation.
~~~ The Cranston, R.I., native brought smiles to so many faces during her time with the unit. Mail from the U.S. sometimes takes weeks and even months to reach the Al Anbar province, where Charette’s unit is fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Everyone knew her smiling face and she at least knew everyone by name since she sorted literally tens of thousands of pieces of mail here. There were times when she would even make special deliveries if a Marine or Sailor was expecting a package.
~~~ “I can remember when we first deployed here I was joking with her and gave her a hard time about why I hadn’t received any letters yet,” said Staff Sgt. Timothy Edwards, the division’s public affairs chief. “Later that month, she actually came to my office with a box and a big smile saying ‘Special delivery, staff sergeant.’ I’ll always remember that.”
~~~ When she was killed in action, Charette was temporarily assigned to an entry control point in the city of Fallujah just a few kilometers west of here. Her job was to search Iraqi women and female children who entered the city in support of an effort to secure the area of weapons threats. It was her first chance to work in the field, but the mailroom was where her heart was.
~~~ “I never really thought too hard about being a mail person, but it’s really an important job and people depend on me,” said Charette in an interview earlier this year. “There are a lot of stresses involved, but it’s really worth it at the end of the day.”
~~~ Some of her close friends sat in the front row as people spoke at the podium, reciting anecdotes from happier days or testifying to the true happiness she brought to her unit.
~~~ “Of course, this past week has been emotionally difficult for all of us,” said 1st Lt. Rebecca G. Moore, the battalion adjutant, “but when I think of Lance Corporal Charette, I can’t help but smile. Lance Corporal Charette made everyone she came in contact with feel at ease.
~~~ “You may not know it, but Lance Corporal Charette has affected every single member of Headquarters Battalion,” said Moore as she spoke to the gathering. “Every piece of mail, every letter, every post card, and every package that you received from March until early June, passed through her mailroom. . . The day after she died we received twice as much mail as ever before: it filled an entire seven-ton. When I walked outside and saw that truck full of mail, I knew that she was with God, looking down upon us and smiling her usual bright, beautiful smile.”
~~~ First Sgt. Sandra K. Kehrt, Headquarters and Service Company, Headquarters Battalion first sergeant conducted the roll call soon after, where three Marines in Charette’s section answered in loud voices – ‘present!’ after their names were called. Kehrt called out the last name and there was silence save for a few sniffs.
~~~ “Lance Corporal Charette. . . Lance Corporal Charette. . . Lance Corporal Holly Charette!”
~~~ The bugler played “Taps,” a military tradition for fallen service members. The sound of the bugle rang throughout the chapel, evoking strong feelings from the crowd as tears rolled down many of their faces. Corporal Millareisha Q. Dixon, Charette’s best friend, was one of them. And she gave her last goodbye.
~~~ “When she left, I hugged her and said ‘Okay Charette, I’ll see you in a month,’” said Dixon. “And to think now I won’t ever see her again in the flesh. When I think of this I remind myself of Philippians 4:13 – ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’
~~~ “Thank you, Lance Corporal Charette for being ‘one of the few.’ Your work is only complete here on Earth. So many of us will look up to you for our strength now. We will never forget.
~~~ “We thank Lance Cpl. Charette for her valor and nobility to herself, to her family, and to the USA, and to those she came in contact with. I am going to be strong and finish this out for me and you both. Don’t worry; I’ve got the mail…”

Cpl. Ramona M. Valdez, USMC

Cpl. Ramona M. Valdez, 20, of The Bronx, New York, assigned to Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C., was killed June 23 when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near her convoy vehicle in Fallujah, Iraq.

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READING, Pa. ~~ Associated Press ~~ The daughter of a family that moved from New York City to Reading two months ago at her urging was killed in a suicide car bomb attack on her Marine convoy in Iraq. Cpl. Ramona M. Valdez, 20, told her mother, Elida Nuez, she would re-enlist for four more years if the family didn’t move from the Bronx to someplace with less noise and crime, Nuez said.
~~~ “I told her, ‘I don’t want you to die. I’ll move,”’ Nuez said Tuesday. She moved to a small Reading row home in April with her youngest daughter, Fiorela Valdez, 19, and Fiorela’s 2-year-old twins, Justin and Joshua.
~~~ Ramona, a communications specialist who wanted to become a policewoman, had originally been expected home in May. But she died Thursday in an attack on her convoy in Fallujah.
~~~ Fiorela Valdez said the family is bitter about the war it increasingly regards as senseless, and blames President Bush.
~~~ “Why doesn’t he send his daughters over there? If he had a family member there, he’d end the war right now,” Valdez said.
~~~ She said her sister had called Wednesday and talked for about 30 minutes. “She was always positive, always trying to keep Mom motivated,” Valdez said. “It was always, ‘Yeah, Mami, I’m going to come home, we’re going to be together.”’
~~~ On Friday, however, a former neighbor in the Bronx called and said four Marine sergeants were outside their old home asking for directions.
~~~ “I kept saying to myself, ‘No, it can’t be that. Not that,”’ Valdez said.
~~~ But Saturday, the Marines arrived at the new home in Reading home with the news of Ramona Valdez’ death. Nuez collapsed on the floor, screaming, and never spoke to them, Fiorela said.

Culinary Specialist 1st Class Regina R. Clark, USN

Culinary Specialist 1st Class Regina R. Clark, 43, of Centralia, Washington, deployed with Naval Construction Region Detachment 30, Naval Reserve, Port Hueneme, California, temporarily assigned to II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward); killed June 23 when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near her convoy vehicle in Fallujah, Iraq.

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CENTRALIA, Wash. ~~ Associated Press ~~ A Navy reserve mess cook became the first Lewis County resident to die in Iraq following a suicide car bomb attack outside Fallujah, a Navy spokeswoman told The Chronicle of Centralia. Petty Officer 1st Class Regina Clark, 43, was deployed nearly five months ago with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 18 out of Tacoma, according to Chief Petty Officer Jeri Robinson at the Navy submarine base in Bangor.
~~~ A suicide car bomber and gunmen ambushed a convoy carrying female Marines on Thursday, killing two Marines and leaving another four American military personnel presumed dead, the military said Friday. At least two women were killed, including Clark, and 11 of 13 wounded were female.
~~~ The terror group al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for the bombing, one of the single deadliest attacks against the Marines — and against women — in this country.
~~~ Clark, a Desert Storm veteran whose father and brother served in the Navy, was called up one week after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. She spent four months on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz. In 2003, she was sent on a six-month stint in Kuwait.
~~~ In March 2003, the morning she headed to Kuwait, Clark spoke to The Chronicle about her pride in going to war to maintain peace.
~~~ “I am pretty sure I’m going into a hot spot, and that’s scary, but I am ready,” she said.
~~~ Clark said she told her then-16-year-old son, Kerry, who worried she might not return, “I could leave for work on a normal day and not come back. We never have any guarantees.”
~~~ Now 18, he told KING Television of Seattle, “I relied on her as much as she relied on me.” He said he wasn’t sure what he would do now.
~~~ Family friend Kim Elliott said friends knew Clark was in dangerous territory because a few days before she died, a man right behind her was shot. Elliott said Clark was up to the challenge.
~~~ “She is by far the strongest human I’ve ever known,” she said, “not ‘woman’, but ‘human’.”
~~~ Clark was born in Kassel, Germany, and attended college on softball scholarships, according to Elliott. After she was laid off from work at Fuller’s Market Place in Centralia in 2004, she went to work at the Cedar Creek Correction Center near Littlerock.
~~~ Elliott said Clark planned to retire from the military when she returned from Iraq.
~~~ “She was done this time, this was it,” Elliott said. “She had enough money to retire.”
~~~ Janet Barr, who worked with Clark at Fuller’s Market, said she will remember Clark’s enthusiasm for playing on the store’s softball team as a shortstop. Barr said all the employees were proud of Clark and her service but questioned why she would have to serve another tour in Iraq.
~~~ “I thought it was unfortunate that she had to go back again,” Barr said. “I didn’t think it was right.”
~~~ Phyllis Brosnahan, who also worked with Clark at Fuller’s, said she liked serving in the reserves and talked of the fun she had training in Northern California.
~~~ “She was just an all-around American girl,” Brosnahan said.

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