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Twentynine Palms-based Marine unit mourns loss of two of their own

18 Jan 2006 | Cpl. Graham A. Paulsgrove

The Marines and Sailors of 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, gathered at the Protestant Chapel here Jan. 18, to pay their final respects to Lance Cpl. Christopher B. Best and Petty Officer 3rd Class David S. Sotelo.

Best and Sotelo died as a result of a military vehicle accident on Interstate Highway 15 Jan. 4, while enroute to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar for predeployment training.

The battalion is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in coming months.

“We are here today to pay our final respects to two members of the wolf-pack family,” said Lt. Col. Matthew L. Jones, battalion commander, 3rd LAR Bn. “They were two very fine men who accomplished a lot in the time they had.”

Sotelo, 22, a native of Murrieta, Calif., was a Navy hospital corpsman for Company A, and combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was known by his peers for his knowledge, humor and selflessness.

“(He) was the type of person who didn’t care about himself—he only cared about taking care of others,” said Cpl. Nathaniel V. Stallings, one of several Marines and family members who spoke of Best and Sotello during the service.

“He was the first true hero I ever met,” said Sgt. Gamielle Marshall, training noncommissioned officer, 3rd LAR Bn.  “I will never forget him.”

Best, 20, a native of Springfield, Mo., who was a light armored vehicle crewman for 3rd LAR Bn., was known as a hard worker and good friend to many.

“While Lance Cpl. Best was relatively new (to the unit), we all knew he was on a great track,” said Jones. 

“For those who knew Best, there is now a void,” added Lance Cpl. Jason White.  “He was a great Marine and a great friend.  He always put the needs of others in front of his own.” 

The ceremony concluded with the playing of taps.

“They will not be forgotten,” concluded Capt. Michael R. Nakonieczny, company commander for Company A.

Two other Marines from the unit were injured during the accident, but have since returned to their unit.

The cause of the accident is under investigation.