Camp Pendleton unit honors its fallen
Vicky Huynh of Los Angeles remembered the last letter her boyfriend, Lance Cpl. Felipe Sandoval-Flores, sent her from Iraq. “He said he loved me and when he got home, he was bringing a ring,” the 21-year-old said tearfully.
Maria Carrillo, 23, of Twentynine Palms said that in his last call, her husband, Sgt. Alejandro Carrillo, “was more worried about his Marines than about himself.”
The women’s wishes for their loved ones’ safe return were not to come true.
Sandoval-Flores and Carrillo were among 28 service members from the 1st Marine Logistics Group Forward killed during a 13-month tour in Iraq. Eight died in a truck accident, the others from incidents including roadside bombs and sniper attacks.
At a solemn ceremony Friday, the 23 Marines, four sailors, and one soldier were honored for having shown “the noble value of placing country above self.”
For the most part, they were not infantry troops. They supported the “grunts,” filling jobs as clerks, drivers, police officers, mechanics, corpsmen, heavy equipment operators and electricians.
But in a war without front lines, everyone is vulnerable once they leave the relative safety of U.S. bases.
Among the 28 were two women: Cpl. Jennifer Parcell of Bel Air, Md., and Lance Cpl. Juana Navarro-Arellano of Ceres, Calif.
The group’s commander, speaking at the ceremony, noted the complex nature of the war in Iraq, in which Marines in sprawling Al Anbar Province are targeted by Sunni insurgents. “We are engaged in a war unlike any we have experienced,” said Col. David Richtsmeier.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ray Hunt, a chaplain, praised the 28 for fulfilling the biblical admonition to be “symbols of justice for the oppressed” even at the risk of their lives.
“Each of them stood up and said: ‘I will be that example.’ They knew the risks, and they also knew the rewards,” Hunt said.
When the ceremony was over, Huynh and Carrillo talked quietly of their loss. Carrillo said she hoped her son, Alejandro Jr., 3, would come to realize that his father “sacrificed himself for everybody else.”
Huynh said she would remember Sandoval-Flores’ leadership among Marines. “He was everything to me,” she said.