2 isle Marines are killed in Iraq
The Wednesday deaths in Al-Anbar province raise the unit's death toll to 13
Two Kaneohe-based Marines were among three killed Wednesday morning in Iraq, raising the death toll for their unit to 13 since being deployed in September.
Pfc. Heath Douglas Warner, 19, of Canton, Ohio, and Lance Cpl. Joshua C. Alonzo, 21, of Dumas, Texas, and a third Marine were killed in Al-Anbar province. Warner and Alonzo were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe.
The Pentagon did not provide information concerning Warner or the third Marine yesterday.
But Warner's mother, Melissa, said in a telephone interview that her son, a gunner, was on a special operations combat mission when a roadside bomb exploded and struck the vehicle in which he was riding, killing him. He suffered severe blast wounds, she said.
She said her son was selfless, always willing to help others, and told her before his deployment, "I'm going to fight so my little brothers won't have to."
Since he was 5, Warner dreamed of being in the military, and joined in his senior year of high school, his mother said. Last night, she and his father, Scott, looked at photos of him as a small boy saluting and standing at attention, which helped them heal their wounds, Melissa Warner said.
Warner also leaves behind two brothers, Chandler, 14, and Ashton, 7.
Melissa Warner, 39, said she was a young single mother when she had Heath, her firstborn. "We kind of grew up together, and he became one of my best friends."
She named him Heath, which means "out of the fire," a fitting name, she said. "Look what he went through. He fought for his country."
He follows in the footsteps of his grandfather, a soldier, and his great-grandfather, who fought in World War II, and an uncle who served 20 years in the Navy. "They all made a big impact on him," she said.
Warner was a break-dancing instructor and believed it helped kids stay out of trouble. He taught himself how to dance, became good with nonstop practicing and ended up volunteering at a dance company where he taught youngsters, his mother said.
Warner last spoke to her Sept. 10 and left for Iraq on Sept. 11. Their last contact was a letter written Oct. 2 and received Oct. 28.
"He was extremely upbeat; he was doing OK. It wasn't easy but he was fine," she said.
He wrote, "Please keep the packages and mail coming. I need mail, mail and more mail."
His mother added, "He told us how much he cared and loved us."
His brother Ashton picked up a pretty red maple leaf, which they sent him, and he commented on how much he appreciated getting a leaf in the desert, Melissa Warner said.
"I can't send you a pretty leaf, but I can sure hook you up with the sand," he wrote. "I don't want to talk about the desert too much because you'll worry and I'll get homesick."
Amid the chaos of war, Warner read the Bible every day, his mother said.
Warner was stationed in Hawaii briefly and liked it but missed the change of seasons and was homesick, she said.
Alonzo, a team leader, had received the Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon. He joined the Marine Corps in June 2004 and was sent to Hawaii the following November.
Alonzo and Warner are the 12th and 13th members of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines to die in Iraq since the unit deployed there in September.
Melissa Warner was shocked to learn that Alonzo, a name her son had mentioned several times, had also died, and hopes to be able to speak to other mothers who have lost children.
"I wish I was able to come to his base," she said. "I have never been to Hawaii. I want to see where he walked. I want to meet some of his friends. Maybe someday we will."