Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Marine Lance Cpl. Dion M. Whitley

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Dion M. Whitley, 21, of Los Angeles, California.

Lance Cpl Whitley died when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations near Ar Ramadi, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, their unit was operating with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, which was attached to 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).

Lance Cpl Whitley was a machine-gunner and he had been in Iraq for three months.

Lance Cpl Whitley was an Eagle Scout, a 2002 Muir High School graduate and president of the GeoSpace Academy at Muir. In high school, he played football and belonged to the Z-Club, a student community service group.

His teachers and football coach remembered him as a shy young man who grew into an outgoing leader. Clarence Stubblefield was Whitley's Boy Scout troop leader. "He ended up being Senior Patrol Leader, in charge of the whole troop," Stubblefield said. The other boys voted him into higher and higher positions, Stubblefield said.

"He was just a likable guy. If someone had a problem, he'd listen to the problem. He'd spend time trying to solve the problem," he said.

Shelley McDonald, Whitley's English teacher, agreed.

"He looked like a football player, but he had a gentle spirit," she said. "He had friends from a lot of different arenas."

He loved being with younger kids, his mother, Deborah Whitley said. He helped with the nursery school at Victory Bible Church, and worked with younger Boy Scouts at Camp Cherry Valley on Catalina Island every summer.

Whitley's family and friends also said he was a cut-up.

"When he was in first grade or second grade, his teacher said Dion just stood up in class, did an Elvis Presley impression, and sat back down," Deborah Whitley said with a smile.

Josh Smith, a close friend, said Whitley could make anybody laugh. "You could never tell when he was serious or playing."

Whitley was interested in the military from an early age, his teachers recalled. When he had reports to do in English class, he did them on the Marines. He argued with other students about the importance of contributing to his country, McDonald said. After he made it through boot camp in March, he came in to talk to her class. He had lost weight, was trim and ready for combat, she said.

"He said (boot camp) was testing his stamina and the strength of his commitment," she said. "He was proud because he had made it through."

Marine Lance Cpl Dion M. Whitley was killed in action on 06/15/05.

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