CAMP COMBAT OUTPOST, Iraq -- The circumstances behind the deaths of Cpl. Tommy L. Parker and Lance Cpls. Pedro Contreras, Juan Lopez and Deshon E. Otey remain a mystery, but Marines with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment had the opportunity to say goodbye to their fallen comrades July 9.
The four Company E infantrymen were manning an observation post in Ar Ramadi June 21. When the Marines failed to make contact with their higher headquarters, a quick reaction force was sent to the post to check on the team. The QRF found the Marines, each having been shot repeatedly.
"We gather here today to remember four comrades who fought valiantly in combat against an enemy who has given us no order," said Lt. Col. Paul Kennedy, battalion commander. "In one absolutely inhumane act, these men were taken from our lives forever."
According to Capt. Kelly D. Royer, commander of Company E, the four Marines had fought and survived some of the battalion's most ferocious engagements.
During intense gun battles with insurgents in early April, each of the infantrymen "fought like warriors."
One example of these Marines' bravery occurred April 6.
In the mid-day hours, Otey and his squad were battling enemy combatants from their humvee.
Otey, of Radcliff, Ky., jumped out of the vehicle and urged the other Marines to do the same. He sought cover behind a wall several meters from the vehicle. After reinforcements arrived and the fighting subsided, Otey returned to his humvee to find all of the other passengers dead.
Still, the loss did not deter the 24-year-old Marine. He returned to the streets of Ar Ramadi to rid Iraq of anti-Iraqi fighters.
"We must reflect on the lives and sacrifices made by these men," Royer added. "They fought since the day they arrived and they fought hard. Never forget them and the courage they displayed. They were fine warriors."
During the ceremony, commanders and friends spoke about the experiences they had with each of the fallen Marines.
Contreras' and Lopez's platoon commander, 1st Lt. Vincent S. Valdes, recalled his Marines.
He described 22-year-old Lopez, of Dalton, Ga., as a quiet person who kept to himself. Lopez, a native of Mexico, was hoping to become an American citizen upon returning from Iraq.
"Contreras was a proud Texan," Valdes said. "He had a contagious smile, and you always knew he was in the room because he was always yelling."
After leaving the Marine Corps, 27-year-old Contreras was planning to enter the world of law enforcement.
Parker, who trained to be a sniper, was a father and husband who grew up in Heber Springs, Ark.
Those who knew him described him as "fit, trim and carried himself as an upright Marine." Parker, 21, was planning to make the Marine Corps a career. He loved muscle cars and his family.
Kennedy said each of the Marines would be missed.
"I know they're up there as guardians," Kennedy said. "They're watching over all of you making sure you're maintaining the principles of duty and discipline. This is a time to honor their service to the Marine Corps and their comrades."