April 1 to 4

April 1

Pfc. Dustin M. Sekula, USMC

The Department of Defense announced on April 2 the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Pfc. Dustin M. Sekula, 18, of Edinburg, Texas, died April 1, due to injuries sustained from enemy fire in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Associated Press ~ EDINBURG, Texas -- A South Texas soldier who turned down a college scholarship because he was joining the U.S. Marine Corps was killed in Iraq just three months after he was deployed. Pfc. Dustin Sekula, 18, was killed Thursday by enemy fire in the Al Anbar province, which includes Fallujah and Ramadi in the hostile Sunni Triangle, according to his family and military reports. Sekula was the first person from Hidalgo County to die in the Iraq war, according to The (McAllen) Monitor's Saturday edition. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Twentynine Palms, Calif. Family members were notified of his death Thursday night, said Robert Robinson, the family's pastor at Trinity Worship Center in Pharr. On Friday, American flags were at half-staff at his Edinburg home and at Edinburg North High School, where he graduated at the top of his class last spring. Sekula's grades earned him an agriculture scholarship, but his Future Farmers of America teacher Dan de la Vina recalled Sekula saying, "Give it to somebody that needs it." He knew he was enlisting in the Marines and his college bills would be paid for after his tour of duty, de la Vina said. Before Sekula left for boot camp in June, he was active in his church, working with his parents in the children's church program. He talked with the children at the church about being a Marine before he left for Iraq, Robinson said. "The kids let him know they prayed for him every Sunday," he said. Friends said Sekula, who was active in FFA while in school, was skilled at ranching and loved roping steers. He would use his lunch period to practice roping on a fake steer, they said. "I just wish he was still here to do it," said Kyle Lambert, 17, a close friend who had classes with Sekula. Sekula is survived by his parents, Dan and Lisa Sekula, older sister Danielle and younger brother Derek.

April 4

Lance Cpl. Aric J. Barr, USMC

The Department of Defense announced on April 5 the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lance Cpl. Aric J. Barr, 22, of Allegheny, Pa, died April 4, due to injuries received from enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.

April 4

Pfc Geoffery S. Morris, USMC

The Department of Defense announced on April 5 the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Pfc. Geoffery S. Morris, 19, of Gurnee, Ill, died April 4, due to injuries received from hostile fire in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

CAMP PENDLETON, California, Associated Press ~ A 19-year-old Marine from Illinois who was based at Camp Pendleton has been killed while deployed in Iraq, the Marine Corps announced Monday. Pfc. Geoffrey S. Morris of Gurnee, Ill., died Sunday in the Anbar province of Iraq. Morris' death was "due to enemy action," according to a statement from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. Officials did not provide details. Anbar, which is where the city of Fallujah is located, has been a hot spot for violence in recent weeks. Last week, four American civilian contractors were killed in Fallujah and mobs mutilated their corpses. On Monday, U.S. troops sealed off the city, west of Baghdad. Some 1,200 Marines and two battalions of Iraqi security forces were poised to launch an operation aimed at pacifying the city, one of the most violent places in the Sunni Triangle. Morris joined the Marine Corps on June 16, 2003. He was a machine gunner assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. His personal awards include the National Defense Service Medal

April 4

Cpl. Tyler R. Fey, USMC

Cpl. Tyler R. Fey, 22, of Eden Prairie, Minn., who was assigned to 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, was killed Sunday in an attack in Anbar province. "He was a kind and sweet kid. He was proud of his decision to be in the service and serve as a combat engineer," said his cousin, Char Loving. He enlisted in the Marines on Sept. 19, 2000, shortly after graduating from Holy Angels Academy in Richfield, Minn. It was his second tour in Iraq. He was scheduled to return to the United States in August. His personal awards include the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

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Sun Newspapers -- An Eden Prairie family is mourning the loss of their younger son – a casualty of the year-old war in Iraq. Cpl. Tyler Richard Fey, 22, died at 3:27 a.m. (Iraqi time) Sunday, April 4, of injuries sustained from hostile fire in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. Fey, son of Richard and Cheryl Fey, enlisted in the Marines in 2000, shortly after his graduation from the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield. Second Lt. Robert Shuford, a Marine spokesman from Fey’s base at Camp Pendleton, Calif., said the Department of Defense has not released specific details of the manner or circumstances of Fey’s death. Fey had been assigned to 1st Combat Engineers Battalion, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Camp Pendleton. Shuford said the duties assigned to this unit often included building and demolition, including, at varying times, clearing buildings and obstacles and reconstructing them. Soldiers such as Fey, he said, are trained in carpentry, demolitions, and the specialized skills of urban warfare. They also can be utilized as infantry soldiers. “Combat engineers do it all,” Shuford said. Anbar Province extends west from Baghdad to the Jordanian border. It includes the city of Fallujah. Fallujah has been one center of insurgent efforts to remove the U.S.-led coalition forces that are occupying Iraq. In the days following Fey’s death, his family has chosen to grieve in private, said Char Loving, of Golden Valley, a cousin of Tyler’s father, Richard Fey. Fey’s brother, Ryan, 25, a medical student at the University of Minnesota, was summoned home from a vacation when news of Fey’s death reached Eden Prairie. Cheryl Zahn, who has lived next door to the Fey family for 18 years, said uniformed Marines arrived about 9 a.m. April 5 to inform the family of Fey’s death, but no one was home. The Marines returned, she said, at about the time Richard Fey returned home. “As a matter of fact,” she said, “he was talking to us [Zahn and her husband, Gerald] when the Marines got here.” When the news of Fey’s death traveled through the close-knit neighborhood, neighbors began bringing food to the family. Zahn said a group of neighborhood boys got together to rake the Fey’s yard. Zahn remembered that, in Fey’s boyhood, about 75 percent of the children in the neighborhood were boys; one of her sons, Brian, was Tyler’s age. “As a mother of boys,” she said, “I can’t imagine what they’re going through. The war really hits hard when it hits right next door.” The neighborhood boys, including Tyler, always made a point of playing on the same city baseball team that Gerald Zahn coached. “Our back yard,” Zahn recalled, “was always the lot where they played baseball together, until they got too big and hit the balls in the street, and we had to put a stop to it.” Zahn said she last saw Fey when he was home on leave around the Christmas holidays. He showed pictures of Iraq, she said, but talked little about his combat experiences. He mentioned something about taking a shower in one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces, she said, but did not indicate whether he might have been directly involved in Saddam’s capture. “We will certainly miss Tyler,” she said. “He was a sweety. He always had a smile on his face, his eyes would sparkle, and he looked so handsome in his dress blues.” Loving said family and friends will remember Fey as a sweet, polite young man who loved snowboarding and hunting. Fey was just a few months shy of his 19th birthday when he joined the Marines. “He was very proud of his decision to enlist,” Loving said. According to Jill Reilly, president of Holy Angels, staff members learned of his death April 6. School was not in session last week, so no students were around for the announcement. “I remember him as a quiet and polite person,” Reilly said. School officials were busy last week talking with Fey’s classmates and some members of his family to determine how the school can address the tragedy. “This week, there’s almost nobody at the school,” she said. “We will have a plan in place for students when they come back.” This year’s seniors would have been located in a different building than Fey during his senior year, Reilly said, so they’re not likely to have known him through school. Some might have known him from outside activities, however. She plans on working with his family to determine the best and most respectful way to honor his memory in the school setting, Reilly said. “Since 9/11, the war in Iraq is clearly on students’ minds,” she said. “It’s part of their thought process and part of the faith process.” Over the nine years she has worked for the Academy of Holy Angels, Reilly said, she is not aware of any other students dying in combat. She didn’t know whether there were any such losses prior to her tenure at the school. The school served only girls until 1972. Fey’s funeral Mass was scheduled for Tuesday, April 13, at Pax Christi Catholic Community, Eden Prairie. A private prayer service was planned at Holy Angels. Zahn said the neighbors and friends of the Fey family are respecting their privacy and allowing them to grieve with their relatives. “Right now, they’ve got family here,” she said. “It’s when everything is overwith that they’ll need our support. People go home, and they go on with their lives. That’s when the neighbors will let them know we’re here for them.”

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