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Fallen Marines Honored in Memorial Service

 

 
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(This article appeared in the August 27, 1999 issue of the Observation Post, the base newspaper for Twentynine Palms, California.)

1stLt Jason D. Grose
1st Tank Bn Adjutant

First Tank Battalion rendered a military memorial service on behalf of its fallen Marines, Corporal Ricardo Ramirez and Corporal Michael Suarez, August 19th as both Marines were involved in an automobile accident August 15, in Southern California.

In response to this accident, 1st Tanks implemented an intensive two-day safety standown. Supported by MCAGCC safety and provost marshal’s offices, the standown aimed to further educate 1st Tank Marines and Sailors so they may be better informed and, more importantly, prevent a similar tragedy.

“There is no doubt in my mind that curbing and preventing alcohol-related incidents is challenging,” stated LTCOL Richard V. Mancini, 1st Tank Battalion Commanding Officer. “I believe a commander has to be aggressive and attack on multiple fronts that range from a meaningful and imaginative educational program tailored to its target audience, continued command emphasis, and strong discipline. I believe our safety stand own achieved many of our objectives. Yet, there is one significant area where our continual emphasis and leadership is necessary. Expecting, and more importantly demanding, our Marines and Sailors exercise sound judgment when they drink.”

Corporal Ricardo Ramirez was born in Great Neck, New York on July 8th, 1976.  He graduated from Great Neck South High School in 1994 and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on September 6th, 1996.  Upon graduation from recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina, he attended the School of Infantry at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. Following completion of Small Arms Repair School at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, Ricardo joined 1st Tank Battalion in June of 1997.  He was an Infantry Weapons Repairman working in the Battalion Armory.  Corporal Ramirez was deployed to Operation Southern Watch in Kuwait for 160 days and his personal awards include a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, and a Certificate of Achievement.  Corporal Ramirez is survived by his parents, Julio Ramirez and Maria Rodriguez.

Corporal Michael Suarez was born in Lufkin, Texas on March 31, 1977.  He graduated from Dibold High School, Dibold, Texas in 1995 and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on April 23, 1996.  Upon graduation from recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California, he attended the School of Infantry at Camp Pendleton.  Suarez then attended M1A1 tank training at the U.S. Army Armor School in Fort Knox, Kentucky.  He joined 1st Tank Battalion, serving with 3rd Platoon, Company A.  His performance as a tank driver, loader, and gunner was noteworthy.  He was then assigned the position of Company A Supply Non-Commissioned Officer.  Corporal Suarez’ awards include the Meritorious Unit Citation and a Meritorious Mast. He is survived by his wife, Amber Leigh Suarez, his daughter, Avery Suarez, and his parents, Paulino and Beatrice Suarez.

The memorial took place at the Base Catholic chapel and was led by the Chaplain of 1st Tanks, Lt Patrick Riley. The service paid tribute to the fallen Marines by sharing personal reflections from those who knew them best.  Unable to read the poem he had written after the accident, MSGT John M. Mikolajczyk, NCOIC of the Battalion armory where Corporal Ramirez worked, asked GYSGT Kevin Halcrow to render the honor.  Members of Company A including MSGT Ernest Henderson and SSGT Timothy Tompkins, and Sgt Jose Ventura also joined in to share their friendship and respect for their fellow Marines.

The ceremony concluded with the Commanding Officer ordering the Battalion Sergeant Major, SGTMAJ Duane R. Hawkins, to take the report.  Marching in front of the congregated Tankers, the Sergeant Major called off the names of various members of the Battalion who in turn, answered the call with a loud, “Here, Sergeant Major.” Then, the Sergeant Major called, “Corporal Ramirez,” to which only silence was returned. “Corporal Suarez.” Again, total silence.

Turning about face, the Sergeant Major reported, “Sir, I regret to inform you, Corporal Ramirez and Corporal Suarez, missing.”  As the last word was spoken, the haunting sound of Taps played as the Sergeant Major marched away.


Email -- jdgrose115@polyglut.net
Web -- http://members.tripod.com/~jdgrose115/

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