Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Army Pfc. Ivan E. Merlo

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Ivan E. Merlo, 19, of San Marcos, Calif.

Pfc. Merlo was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; died Jan. 9, 2008 in Samarra, Iraq, of wounds sustained during combat operations. Also killed were Sgt. David J. Hart and Pfc. Phillip J. Pannier.

By Rick Rogers

January 12, 2008

Army Pfc. Ivan E. Merlo of San Marcos was supposed to come home in two weeks from Iraq.

The 19-year-old was supposed to reunite with his wife, Nicole. He was supposed to serve as the best man at the wedding of his best friend and brother in combat, Pfc. Phillip J. Pannier, 20, of Washburn, Ill.

But Merlo and Pannier died Wednesday while waging an Army offensive targeting insurgents north of Baghdad.

Also killed during the battle in the city of Samarra was Sgt. David J. Hart, 22, of Lake View Terrace. The three soldiers belonged to A Company, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Merlo and Pannier “would do anything for each other. I will never forget those two boys together,” Jennifer Marie Held, Pannier's fiancee, said yesterday in an e-mail from her home in Metamora, Ill. “I intend on keeping contact with Nicole for the rest of my life because we need each other.”

The Merlos were present at the dinner when Pannier proposed to Held. The two couples spent time together on many occasions.

“Ivan was a great, great person and always helped me through everything,” Held said.

At the Merlo family home in San Marcos, Diego Merlo said he'll miss his older brother's magnetic personality. He also expressed admiration for the way his brother aspired to achieve greater things in life.

Ivan Merlo graduated from San Marcos High School in 2006. He joined the Army that October and arrived at Fort Campbell four months later. His awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon.

“He was one those people you knew was good from the moment you met him. . . . He never got into trouble. He didn't run the streets. He got good grades,” Diego Merlo said. “He was just the kind of person that other people would go to and ask for advice. The guy had a lot of friends and stayed in touch with them.”

The brothers last talked to each other on Dec. 12, the day Diego Merlo turned 16. During the brief conversation, the elder brother imparted some advice.

“He said to be strong and said he soon would see me, and I told him to stay safe,” Diego Merlo said. “I'll always remember how he was always smiling, always funny.”

That smile is prominent in many pictures posted on the soldier's MySpace page. The site is filled with tributes from friends and fellow soldiers who mourn his passing.

Merlo also is survived by his parents, Tony Merlo and Joanna Villegas. His family has not finalized funeral arrangements.

Merlo's unit will hold a memorial service for him, Pannier and Hart in Iraq, while Fort Campbell will honor them during its monthly Eagle Remembrance Ceremony.

Army Pfc. Ivan E. Merlo was killed in action on 1/9/08.


Anonymous said...

Ivan, you are one of our generation's heroes. I didn't know you, but I can feel the passion you had for life & the love that others had for you. Thank you for your sacrifice, brother... as long as our flag flies, you didn't die in vain.

Jermaine Speed, Utah

Mike Wride said...

i miss you bro, since day 1 in the Army, i miss you man. i'll visit you and nicole when i can. watch your brothers backs. love you brother...