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California Marines Die in Fighting With Iraq Insurgents

Times Staff Writer

Thirteen years ago, Marine 1st Lt. Oscar Jimenez participated in the first U.S. invasion of Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. Last year, the San Diego resident returned as coalition forces deposed Saddam Hussein.

In February, for the third time, he was deployed again to Iraq as a member of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Twentynine Palms, Calif.

On Easter Sunday, Jimenez was commanding a seven-vehicle convoy near the edge of Fallouja, in Al Anbar province. A small girl led a herd of cattle across the highway in front of the Marine vehicles. As the convoy slowed, dozens of gunmen opened fire from behind the tall grass and surrounding buildings.

Jimenez was shot in the leg. He radioed a warning to the other Marines in his convoy. “Hurry up. We got to get out of here,” he said, according to Associated Press. As Marines launched a fierce counterattack and pushed the convoy ahead, Jimenez, 34, a father of three, was shot in the head and killed.

In a quickly penned poem last week, his daughter, Vanessa, 15, tried to convey the pain and pride she felt for her father.

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“You wrote in your letters, ‘I take care of my men,’ and you did, and they said, ‘Oscar was a great Marine!’ ” she wrote. “You are a great father! You are my Marine hero! And you will always be my hero forever! I love you Daddy! And I will miss you very much!”

After wanting to be a Marine since he was a boy, Jimenez joined the Corps in December 1989. He served during operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. From 1993 to 2001, he was in the Marine Corps Reserve before becoming a commissioned officer in August 2001. “Oscar had the perfect balance in life,” said Ben Soto, his brother-in-law. “He worked hard, he was devoted to his family and he still made time for his friends.”

Vanessa recalled her father saying that this would be the last time he would go to war.

His daughter described how Marines in black uniforms arrived on Easter Sunday to deliver the news of her father’s death. “I asked why they were here and Mommy said, ‘God has taken Daddy away,’ ” Vanessa wrote in her poem. “Our big family misses you very much, especially Mommy. But don’t worry, I will do my best to take care of her just like you said on the phone.”

Jimenez also is survived by his wife, Alejandrina; two sons, Oscar, 6, and Christopher, 3; his mother, Maria Noriega of San Diego; and his father, Otto Jimenez of Seattle.

Jimenez will be buried with full military honors Thursday at Greenwood Memorial Park in San Diego.


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