March 25 to 27

March 25

The Department of Defense announced on March 30 the identities of three Marines whose status was listed as missing in action. They were:

Staff Sgt. Donald C. May, Jr., 31, of Richmond, Va.
Lance Cpl. Patrick T. O'Day, 20, of Sonoma, Calif.
Pfc. Francisco A. Martinez-Flores, 21, of Los Angeles, Calif.

The O'Day family said Marine officials told them the men's tank apparently plunged off a bridge.

The three Marines were assigned to the 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, Twenty-nine Palms, Calif. They were last seen while conducting convoy operations in the vicinity of the Euphrates River on March 25. A search and rescue effort was continuing.

On March 31 the Department of Defense announced that it had changed the status of the three Marines from missing in action to killed in action, and that their remains had been recovered on March 28.

Lance Cpl. Patrick T. O'Day, USMC

Patrick O'Day was born in Scotland in 1983. The family moved to Santa Rosa in 1987. At Santa Rosa Middle School, he was the captain of the wrestling team. He graduated in 2001, hurriedly married his high school sweetheart, Shauna Hill, in October, just before shipping overseas. Their first child is due in September.

Staff Sgt. Donald C. May, USMC

Staff Sgt. Donald C. May, Jr. was one of three Marines listed as missing by the Pentagon when their tank went off a bridge into the Euphrates River on March 25. All three were found dead in the tank, May's mother, Brenda May, was told Monday. Funeral arrangements have not yet been made. One of Donald May's aunts, Alice Weedon of Chesterfield, said May will be buried in the military section of a local cemetery. His body has not yet been returned. Weedon said Brenda May has shown remarkable strength since learning of her only child's death. Brenda May was not at Wednesday's service. ``It is overwhelming and very painful. I don't want him to be gone,'' Weedon said after the service. The public memorial was a mix of faith and patriotism. Mourners wiped their eyes during the Psalms and prayers and during the ``Battle Hymn of the Republic.'' As he sought to console, the Rev. Bernard Camden spoke of a divine shepherd watching over the troops, and recalled the people whose loved ones are still on the front lines. ``We come to remember the families not only for those who are grieving, but for those whose hearts are pounding in agony,'' Camden said. His son was a Marine who served in the first Gulf War. May, the son of two Marines, left behind a wife, Deborah, who is 7 1/2 months pregnant with the couple's second son. She has a child from a previous marriage. A typed note in program from Wednesday's service asked people to pray for Deborah ``and their unborn child.'' May joined the Corps the same year he graduated from high school and served four years in the military police. He finished boot camp in time to serve in the Middle East for the last few months of the first Gulf War in 1991. His job was guarding Iraqi prisoners. For his second deployment to Iraq, May was in the 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, based at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Pfc. Francisco A. Martinez Flores, USMC

Pfc. Francisco A. Martinez-Flores joined the Marines straight out of Duarte High School, three years ago, at 18. In the traditional Mexican style of his family, which had immigrated to the USA from Mexico City, he used the name of his father, Samuel Martinez, and the maiden name of his mother, Martha. He held resident alien, or "green card," status. He was to become a U.S. citizen in two weeks. In the Marines, Martinez Flores, 21, fixed tanks, not cars. He also drove the tank. He transferred his humor to military life. He'd do anything for a laugh, his buddies in "Charlie Company" said. In friendly rivalry with "Delta Company," he once mooned Delta truckers, wearing only a gas mask. He once took a dare to drink an entire bottle of his own spit. One of his duties in Kuwait, before the war started, was to act as his unit's pigeon wrangler. The mission of the company's pigeon, like that of a coal miner's canary, is to provide early warning of a poison gas attack. Martinez Flores made pets of the exotic, sometimes poisonous, animals he found in the desert. He kept them in bottles or empty ammo canisters. There was a lizard named Mr. Biggles, a cricket and a baby sidewinder snake. He also had a scorpion, but not for long. His superiors ordered him to get rid of it.

March 25

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Michael Vann Johnson

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Michael Vann Johnson, of Little Rock, Ark., was assigned to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego and was a member of the 3rd Marine Division Detachment. He was killed by a grenade while tending a wounded comrade on March 25. He leaves behind a wife.

March 26

Major Kevin G. Nave, USMC

The Department of Defense announced March 28 that Marine Major Kevin G. Nave, 36, of Union Lake, Mich., was killed March 26 in a non-hostile vehicle accident in Iraq. Major Nave was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, Calif. The accident is under investigation. The major was a career Marine and veteran of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. He leaves behind a wife, a six-year-old son and five-year-old daughter.

March 27

Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Menusa, USMC

SAN FRANCISCO -- A Camp Pendleton-based Marine who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area has been killed in Iraq, becoming the seventh California casualty of the war. The parents and wife of Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Menusa were told by military officials Friday that the 33-year-old combat engineer had been shot, according to the Santa Maria Times. "They didn't have any information as to what happened or when it happened," his widow, Stacy, told the newspaper. "It's another waiting game to find out all the details." Although Joseph Menusa's name had not yet appeared on the Pentagon's list of soldiers killed in action by late Friday, an official at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany told KNTV-11 in San Jose that the Marine had been killed "during hostile action" on Thursday.

Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Menusa, a combat engineer stationed at Camp Pendleton, was a 14-year veteran. He was born in the Philippines and moved with his mother to San Jose when he was 10. He graduated from Silver Creek High in 1989, then joined the Marines. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton, with responsibilities that included demolition and construction. Joseph Menusa's death was first reported Friday by the Santa Maria Times. He was in a combat engineer battalion and was sent to Kuwait on Feb. 5, his wife said. This was his second combat tour; he also fought in the Gulf War in 1991, helping drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. As part of his military tour, he was stationed at Twentynine Palms in the Mojave Desert, Hawaii, Okinawa, Japan, and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, before moving to Tracy. For the past three years, he was a Marine Corps recruiter in Livermore, Hayward and Fremont. In his last deployment was second in command of his platoon, and his job was to secure oil wells. He leaves behind a wife and three-year-old son.

The mother of a Marine recruited by Sgt Menusa offers the following reminiscence: "... Earlier this morning I opened up the Sunday paper (Tri-Valley Herald) to a front page story about the death of the Marine that had been my son's Recruiter here in the No.CA/Bay Area...GySgt Joseph Menusa has been killed in Iraq. This was a Marine that loved the Corps and displayed the best of what a Recruiter is all about and truly a hero to many. During his tenure as our local Recruiter he served the Livermore/Hayward/Fremont USMC station. This was a Marine that motivated his Poolee's through constant encouragement and communication. He enjoyed interacting with their families and politely answered all those 'Mom' questions with an easy smile and reassuring attitude. He helped my son durine his 'freezing' on the tests and pushed him to overcome his fear of tests. Each underscored test created a 6mo delay before the #3 ASVAB made the dream come true for my son to become a Marine. I am forever thankful for the cherished memory this Marine gave us of the day my son left for MCRD/SD...April 2000. SSgt (rank at that time) had considerately scheduled his pick-up of our Poolee with ample time for the family farewells. He quietly stood by and smiled the whole time, watching the family gather on the front lawn to take pictures, give our aspiring Marine long hugs and masses of kisses. He jokingly scolded my son for having shaven his head and denying the MCRD barbers the pleasure of nicking him. His ever present smile broadened ear to ear when I presented my son with a beautiful cross to wear during Boot Camp. He earnestly told my son that the love of his family and the strength of his faith will see him become a fine Marine. As my son received his last round of photo requests and hugs from his three brothers, SSgt spoke to my husband and me of his decision to become a Marine, his love of the Corps, his family, being a local Bay Area boy and his next duty assignment. My son was one of his last Poolee's heading off to Boot Camp and SSgt was excited to take on the next challenge in his own career. When it came time to leave for the airport, he shook hands all around and gave me that wonderful Marine hug. As he pulled the car away from the curb he honked and waved as my son sat next to him straight and proud..."

God Bless...Semper Fi
* Tootie *
Extremely PMM of LCpl Moore (deployed)

March 27

Lance Cpl. Jesús Suárez de Solar, USMC

In Escondido, California, on Friday, March 28, the parents of Lance Cpl Jesús Suárez de Solar, with the 1st Marine Division based at Camp Pendleton learned that their only son had died on a battlefield in Iraq. No other details were immediately available. Solar immigrated from Tijuana with his parents in the late 1990s. He joined the Marines after graduating from Escondido's Valley High School in 2001. He leaves behind a wife and infant son.

March 27

Cpl. Robert M. Rodriguez, USMC

Cpl Robert Rodriguez, USMC, 21, of Queens, New York. Killed in action when the tank he was riding in fell into the Euphrates River during combat operations northwest of An Nasiriyah. He was assigned to the 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California. Died on March 27, 2003.

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