Cpl. Carlos Arellano, 22, Rosemead

Times Staff Writer

Emilia Arellano begged her son not to return to Iraq. He had already served two tours of duty and was wounded the second time. She urged him to tell the Marine Corps that his mother was ill and needed him at home.

But Cpl. Carlos Arellano, 22, refused to lie, his mother said. He didn’t want to be seen as a coward. And he didn’t want a tarnished record. So in September, he again left for Iraq.

Four months later, Arellano was killed when a suicide bomber exploded a car in Haqlaniya, northwest of Baghdad. Also killed in the Jan. 20 explosion was Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Dewey, 20, of Tracy, Calif. Both were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton. As part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, their unit was attached to the 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).


Arellano, who was born in Mexico and grew up in Rosemead, was scheduled to return to California in March and be discharged in June, his family said.

“He wanted to come home,” said his brother Marco, 25. “But when that moment came, when he had to give his life, he did.”

As a teenager, Arellano was a daredevil, frequently riding his bike off the roof, his family said. He loved sports, especially football, soccer and basketball. “Whatever he could get his hands on to kick, throw or play with, he did,” Marco Arellano said. “That was him.” That obsession with sports sometimes got him into trouble when he accidentally broke neighbors’ windows while playing ball in the street, his brother said.

Arellano graduated from Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra in 2001, and joined the Marine Corps in 2003.

He thought military service would help him reach his ultimate goal: becoming a SWAT officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, his family said. He also hoped to attend college and study criminal justice. “He figured the Marines would be something that would open a lot of doors,” Marco Arellano said.

His brother Robert, 27, who has been in the Marines for nine years, said he discouraged Carlos from following him into the military. He told him the job was demanding and required a lot of time away from home. “That was something he wanted to do,” Robert Arellano said. “Once he set his mind to something, there was nothing in the world that could change his mind.”


On his second tour of duty, Carlos Arellano, an infantryman, was awarded a Purple Heart after being injured by a rocketpropelled grenade during a firefight near the Syrian border, Robert Arellano said. He was promoted following that firefight, his brother said.

On his last tour, Arellano taught classes to Iraqi soldiers, Robert Arellano said.

Emilia Arellano said Carlos, whom the family affectionately called “Carlitos,” was the most timid of her four sons. She believes he was scared but didn’t share his fears with her. “He knew I would be sad, and he didn’t want me to worry,” she said.

He frequently sent photographs home, often of him surrounded by Iraqi children. He told his family that his greatest reward was when children would come out and wave at him.

In a letter a few months before his death, Arellano wrote to his mother in Spanish, “Mom, you know how things are here and even though nothing is easy, I keep fighting and I am doing everything possible to return home. Thanks for all your support and prayers, which is the only thing that helps me.”

A funeral Mass was said Saturday at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Monterey Park. Burial was at Oakdale Memorial Park in Glendora.

In addition to his mother and brothers Robert and Marco, Arellano is survived by his father, Robert; and another brother, Gustavo, 18.