California Marines Die in Fighting With Iraq Insurgents

Times Staff Writer

The second time Brad Shuder headed off to Iraq, he carried a prayer in his pocket and the memory of a buddy killed in battle.

Knowing what war asks of a man -- and what it takes from him -- might have made the 21-year-old resist going back.

It didn’t. Shuder had joined the Marine Corps for a purpose. So when called, he headed once more for battle. “He went back the second time knowing it was going to be very dangerous, but he never hesitated,” said his mother, Rose. “He was a Marine through and through.”

Shuder, a lance corporal, was killed April 12 by hostile fire in Al Anbar province. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton.


After serving six months in the region last year, he had returned in February. The way Shuder handled news of his redeployment demonstrated the type of Marine he was, family members said. “Brad decided to join the Marines right after 9/11,” said Father G. Michael Bugarin, Shuder’s godfather and cousin. “He wanted to serve the country in support of freedom and bringing terror to an end, and that was his mission.”

In joining the Marines, Shuder followed in the footsteps of a grandfather who served in World War II, whose uniform was a prized possession. “He was so proud to carry on a family tradition,” Bugarin said.

Last year, during his first tour in Iraq, fellow Marines gave him a nickname that lasted -- and fit. After the fall of Baghdad, supplies were short. Shuder, who loved to cook, gathered vegetables from Iraqis and cooked a stew.

“The Marines there said that was the best meal they’d had in a long time; they started calling him ‘Betty Crocker,’ ” said his father, Glenn.

Shuder grew up in El Dorado Hills in the Sierra foothills east of Sacramento, and graduated from Oak Ridge High School, where he played rugby.

A faithful Roman Catholic, he shared a close relationship with his sister, Chelsey, and was as dedicated a friend as he was a Marine, his family said.

Shuder formed a friendship with Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, a Guatemalan native and gifted artist. Shuder, who was adopted from Korea when he was 22 months old, shared Gutierrez’s desire to give something back to his adopted country.

In an interview with The Times in 2003, Shuder recalled a moment with Gutierrez on a starry night in Kuwait just hours before the start of the war. They were waiting to cross the line of departure into combat. “We didn’t say much,” Shuder said. “We just stood there looking at the sky, not knowing what was to come, but we knew it was going to be OK.”

On the first day of war, Gutierrez was killed by friendly fire, a loss “that really affected Brad,” his mother said.

When Shuder returned home, he took the image of a rose that Gutierrez had drawn and had it tattooed on an arm along with the words “killed in action.” He dedicated it to Gutierrez, Rose Shuder said. “That’s who my son was.”

Funeral services for Shuder will be Friday at Holy Trinity Church in El Dorado Hills.