Capt. Patrick M. Rapicault, French by birth, fell in love with America and joined the U.S. military. He spoke in an accent that was a hybrid of French and Southern. His men gave him the affectionate nickname Frenchie.
In late October 2004, I drove with him through Ramadi, in Anbar province. Rapicault, 34, headed a quick-reaction team from the 2-5 Marines weapons company. Rapicault's armored Humvee was named Whiskey Six. He and his men cleared the streets for convoys and drew their enemy into firefights.
On my trip with them, bombs exploded around us and rockets whizzed by. Rapicault and his men were fearless. None of it fazed them -- even when a bomb exploded just as our Humvee rode over the blast. Rapicault was calm. His men laughed. They seemed indestructible.
Two weeks later, on Nov. 15, a suicide car bomb blew up his vehicle, killing him and two of his men.
The Marines awarded Rapicault a Silver Star after his death, the military's third highest honor. He had survived 50 shootouts and 27 bombings.