Two Southern California soldiers were among the 10 American military personnel killed in Iraq since last weekend, according to authorities.
Pfc. Jose Casanova, 23, of El Monte was killed in Baghdad on Sunday when an Iraqi trash truck rolled over and landed on top of his vehicle, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Casanova had been serving in Iraq since January as a member of the Army’s 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, based at Ft. Bragg, N.C.
Cpl. Sean R. Grilley, 24, of San Bernandino was killed Thursday when men congregating near a cleric’s house past curfew in the Shiite town of Karbala opened fire on a group of military policemen, according to the Department of Defense.
Grilley was assigned to the Army’s 716th Military Police Battalion, based in Ft. Campbell, Ky.
In El Monte on Friday, family, friends and city officials held a vigil for Casanova, who was remembered for his devotion to his family, which included his parents, nine brothers and sisters, and several nieces and nephews.
“He took his time helping kids,” said his brother-in-law, Ray Castellanos, 31. “He didn’t mind staying home with newborns. He was the guy that ... didn’t mind skipping fun to be with his nieces and nephews.”
Casanova wrote from Iraq to each of his relatives, his family said. He talked about returning home and encouraging his 14-year-old sister, Melissa, to learn to play the violin.
“He was very family-oriented, often talking about his mother and brother,” said his military supervisor, Sgt. 1st Class Edward Peterson.
Casanova was born in East Los Angeles. He went to Arroyo High School and Pasadena City College, where he played drums in the band.
His family said many people in El Monte knew him because he had volunteered with the parks and recreation department and had been an altar boy at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.
Grilley died in a heated firefight that also resulted in the deaths of Staff Sgt. Joseph Bellavia, 28, of Wakefield. Mass., and the battalion’s leader, Lt. Col. Kim S. Orlando, a 43-year-old Gulf War veteran from Tennessee. All three previously had been assigned to Ft. Campbell.
The three died after trying to negotiate the disarmament of Iraqi citizens carrying illegal weapons, Ft. Campbell spokesman George Heath said.
At least five U.S. soldiers were injured in the fight. In addition to the Americans, eight Iraqi civilians and at least one Iraqi policeman were killed in the exchange of gunfire and grenades.
Grilley entered the Army in January 2001, and was sent to Ft. Campbell in June 2002. He was joined there by his wife, Lucy. The couple had no children.
The death of another U.S. soldier from a roadside bomb in Baghdad brought the post-May 1 U.S. death total to 101.