Kaneohe-based Marine killed in ambush in Iraq


POSTED: Thursday, December 25, 2008

LONDON, Ky. » A 19-year-old Hawaii-based Marine from Kentucky was killed in a surprise attack in Anbar province, Iraq, his mother said.

Lance Cpl. Thomas “;T.J.”; Reilly Jr. of London died Sunday during combat operations, according to the Department of Defense. Reilly was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, in Kaneohe in December 2007. The unit deployed to Iraq last summer.

His mother, Gina Bray, said her son joined the military after graduating from South Laurel High School last year.

“;I didn't want him to go. He wanted to go. But I didn't want to crush his dream,”; Bray told WKYT-TV in Lexington.

But on Sunday, Bray said Reilly's unit came under a surprise attack, and he was killed instantly.

“;He was on a mission. There was a hostile situation and they just hurt my baby. And they took him,”; Bray said.

Esther Woods, 54, who lives in London, said her 17-year-old grandson knew Reilly growing up.

“;It's really hit him, really, really hard,”; she said. “;It has everybody here in London. To me he's a child.”;

Her former daughter-in-law lives near Reilly's mother and told Woods that “;all the neighbors are just pitching in and cooking. The whole neighborhood is upset really bad.”;

Bray said Reilly had a knack for baking in home economics classes, and he had wanted to enter culinary school after the military.

“;They used to tell him how good he made cakes,”; Bray said.

One of Reilly's former teachers, Mary King, said she kept in contact with him after he was deployed to Iraq .

“;Needless to say, we have been heartbroken,”; King told the Times Tribune in Corbin.

King said Bray was given the news of Reilly's death at a hospital in Harlan, where her daughter Regina had just given birth.

“;She's had ups and downs over the past few days,”; King said.

“;He was very, very close with her, very tight with his mother, and so she is really struggling.”;

King said Reilly was attracted to the opportunities in the military.

“;He saw (the Marines) as a place he could excel and be a leader and be someone who could be in charge and move on up in the ranks,”; King said.

Services at the London Funeral Home will be held Monday at noon, with visitation starting Sunday, according to WKYT-TV. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear ordered state flags at half-staff on the day Reilly is interred.

His awards include a combat action ribbon, sea service deployment ribbon, Iraq campaign medal, global war on terrorism medal, global war on terrorism expeditionary medal and national defense service medal, according to a statement from Marine Corps Base Hawaii.


Star-Bulletin reporter Leila Fujimori contributed to this report.