Friday, June 09, 2006

Marine Lance Cpl. Salvador Guerrero

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Salvador Guerrero, 21, of Los Angeles

Lance Cpl Guerrero was assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.; died June 9 of wounds sustained while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.

Marine Lance Cpl. Salvador Guerrero, 21, Whittier; Killed by Bomb in Iraq
By Patrick McGreevy, Times Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times
June 18, 2006

Intent on sparing his mother from worrying, Marine Lance Cpl. Salvador Guerrero told her during his regular calls home from Iraq that he was training in Japan and would be home soon.

But last week, three Marines in uniform arrived on Rosa Guerrero's doorstep in Whittier to tell her that her son had been killed in combat June 9 west of Baghdad.

He had been in Iraq since March, she learned.

Guerrero, 21, was killed in Al Anbar province when the Humvee he was driving was struck in the explosion of a roadside bomb, said his aunt, Maria Vega.

He was an ammunition specialist assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

That Guerrero had tried to shield his mother from the harsh reality of his assignment was no surprise to friends and relatives, who described the soldier as a quiet aspiring artist who loved adventure and was close to his family.

"He knew his mother would worry too much if she knew he was in Iraq," said girlfriend Laura Almanza, who along with Guerrero's other family members knew his true location.

Vega described her sister's son as "very funny, very likable. He was kind of quiet and very shy, but once he got to know you he was great."

Guerrero, known by the nickname "Junior" to distinguish him from his father, also named Salvador Guerrero, was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Whittier.

He attended Pioneer and Frontier high schools, where his artistic skills blossomed. "He loved to draw animals and people," Vega said.

Guerrero's talent led him to enroll after high school in animation classes at Westwood College in Anaheim, where he earned straight A's, before shifting to classes focusing on graphic design, said Bob Peterson, a program director at the school.

Guerrero told relatives that he was thinking of returning to classes, and a possible career in animation, when his military service was over, Vega said.

When he was not in class, Guerrero earned a paycheck driving a United Parcel Service truck, Almanza said.

Guerrero also liked adventure and excitement - his favorite movie genre was horror. That thrill-seeking side also had him considering the idea of becoming a police officer when he left the military, Almanza said.

The adrenalin rush that made police work attractive to Guerrero also had played a big part in his decision to enlist in the military last year.

"In some of his letters from Iraq, he would get mad because nothing was going on," Almanza said. "He liked the thrill of going there."

Guerrero had been fascinated by the military since he was a young boy and went to extraordinary lengths to join the Marine Corps.

Guerrero was still living at home with his parents in Whittier when he enlisted, and his first application to the Marines was rejected because he was overweight, Vega said.

Undeterred, Guerrero buckled down, hitting the gym, running and dieting until he dropped from 250 pounds to 170, Vega said.

He reapplied to the Marines and was accepted. But, shortly after arriving at boot camp, his superiors raised questions about the tattoo of an angel that Guerrero had on one arm.

Initial concerns that it might be gang-related were dispelled and the military let him stay after military officials confirmed that the angel was religious in nature - a depiction of St. Michael.

A grandmother had given Guerrero a prayer card with St. Michael to take with him into the military for protection and, concerned that he might lose it, he had the image tattooed on his arm, family members said.

The tattoo was a symbol of Guerrero's Catholic faith, and he attended Mass whenever possible, even while he was in Iraq, Vega said.

Guerrero was introduced to Almanza by mutual friends, and the couple were planning to wed, she said.

Almanza said she was attracted to Guerrero from the first time they met.

"He was very sweet. He was a complete gentleman," she said. "He had very, very good morals."

In his last phone call home, the Monday before he was killed, Guerrero told Almanza that his seven-month deployment might be shortened and that she should start making plans for them to attend a Marine Ball in November.

"He was excited that he might come home early," she said.

Although his military career was short, Guerrero won awards, including the National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment ribbon.

In addition to his parents, Guerrero is survived by a brother, Rodolfo, 16.

Marine Lance Cpl. Salvador Guerrero was killed in action on 06/09/06.

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