CAMP RIPPER, Iraq -- Marines from Motor Transportation Company, Regimental Combat Team 7, gathered in a memorial ceremony Sept. 29 to remember two of their fallen comrades and friends.
The fallen were Lance Cpl. Ramone Mateo, 21, a mechanic, and Lance Cpl. Aaron Boyles, 25, a motor transportation operator.
The two Marines were killed Sept. 24, while returning in a convoy from Fallujah. Both of the Marines were victims of improvised explosive devices hidden at different locations along the route.
"How did the Marine Corps earn the confidence of the American people when a problem arose, and the cry 'send in the Marines' was heard?" asked Capt. Daniel D. Brechwald, a motor transportation officer for RCT-7. "It was earned by Marines much like the ones we say goodbye to today. They possessed the fiber and character that define what the average citizen believes honor, courage and commitment are meant to be."
"These are two men that you would be proud to call your friends," said Lance Cpl. Jacob D. Mullins, 21, a native of Maize, Kan., and a mechanic with the company. "They will be dearly missed, and they will always be remembered."
Mateo had just recently returned to Iraq after a short vacation back to the United States. Three days after his arrival, his vehicle was struck by a lethal IED blast.
"I couldn't believe it," said Lance Cpl. David Bryant, a motor transportation operator, and close friend to Mateo. "When I heard what had happened, I couldn't believe it, and I didn't want to believe it."
Bryant added that Mateo was friends with everyone. Even if he didn't like someone, he would still try and be friendly with them.
"He was the humorous type," said Bryant, 22, from San Diego. "He made the days go by quickly and everybody enjoyed his presence."
Boyles was in the same convoy as Mateo but was the victim of separate IED. The second device exploded much further down the route.
"He was quite a character, he made me laugh a lot of the time," said Pfc. Jason R. Criss, 27, a native of San Bernadino, Calif., and a motor transportation gunner with the company. "He was also a hard worker. He got work done with no questions asked. If you needed a favor, he would help you out. He's someone you could count on to accomplish anything."
The close-knit bond formed between Marines in Iraq intensifies the feelings of loss.
"Losing them affected us big time," said Criss. "We've lost two brothers in our family and it's hard. I would take Boyles' place any day in a heartbeat so that he could go home to see his child born."
Boyles was scheduled to return home later this month in order to be with his wife, who is due to give birth soon.
"We miss (Boyle and Mateo)," said Criss. "I just wish that wherever they are they would look over us and protect us. They are our guardian angels on our upcoming missions."