Californian with Hawaii brigade dies in Iraq
The 12th member of a California unit assigned to Hawaii's 29th Brigade Combat Team was killed New Year's Eve, five days before he was supposed to leave Baghdad.
Spc. Marcelino R. Corniel, 23, of La Puente, Calif., was killed during a mortar attack on his observation post. He was the 17th member of the 29th Brigade to die in Iraq since it was sent there in February. The only island-born 29th Brigade combat death was Sgt. Deyson Cariaga.
The 29th Brigade is slated to return to Hawaii in the middle of this month.
Corniel was assigned to the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment, headquartered in Fullerton, Calif. He was supposed to have been married early next month.
The 184th is one of three infantry battalions assigned to the 29th Brigade. However, when it arrived it Baghdad the California unit was re-assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad.
According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, his finance Claudia Calderon, 24, said: "He was packed and so happy he was coming home. I told him, 'Baby. Be careful. Please take care of yourself.' He was the love of my life. I'm numb. I'm still in denial. I can't believe it. I keep my computer and phone by me."
"I don't know what I'm going to do without him," his mother, Elaine Lopez, 43, told the California newspaper.
Corniel, whose family members called him Ronnie, served four years as a Marine, went to Iraq and was sent back a second time in September with the Army National Guard.
Lopez said she didn't want her son to re-enlist, but he told her he wouldn't be sent back to Iraq. The mother of three said her son also told her that he felt like a sitting duck as a guardsman because they weren't trained as well as the Marines were.
His grandmother, Geraldine Vigil, told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune he was set to get a Bronze Star with a "V" for valor for an incident earlier in Iraq where his actions saved other troops.