Saturday, May 29, 2010

Marine Pfc. Jake W. Suter

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Pfc. Jake W. Suter, 18, of Los Angeles

Pfc. Suter was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii; died May 29, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Those attending Memorial Day events at Eternal Valley Memorial Park in Newhall on Monday had arrived ready to reflect on memories of fallen heroes, but few expected so recent a memory as that of young United States Marine Corps Pfc. Jake William Suter, killed in Afghanistan on Saturday morning, Afghanistan time.

Suter, 18, who lived in Stevenson Ranch and was a 2009 graduate of West Ranch High School, died after landing in the war-torn nation just a week ago. Jake became the first graduate of his high school to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

"It seems like a dream, but it's reality. There's nothing we can do now. He's with God now," said Jake's friend Josh Vasquez.

"It's been a very, very difficult time for our students, especially for our faculty. They were very close to Jake Suter," said Bob Vincent, principal of West Ranch High School.

"He wanted to be a Marine so badly and he did it so well," said his friend Nathan Ure, who recalls a time not too long ago when Suter walked into his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, proudly wearing his Marine uniform. "I'm so proud of him," Ure said. "Everyone enjoys freedom, but few do something about it, to protect it."

On his own Facebook page, where Suter listed the United States Marine Corps as his employer since June 2009, he wrote: "I am a Marine in more than just profession but in everything I am."

Since news of Suter's death reached Santa Clarita, friends from church and high school have been filling Facebook pages with praise and love. "What he was doing, he loved," Ure said. "This really hit me hard."

In a message posted on her blog Nov. 2, 2009, Suter's mother, Michelle Unthank, says: "He is in good spirits and enjoying his SOI (School of Infantry) training which he will graduate in 1 month. He is an assaultman - #0351(25 in his PLT or Co., can't remember) - ITB (Infantry Training Battalion), Alpha Co., (300+ boys), weapons platoon (100+). He has hiked and ran many miles through the hills of SD, shot rifles, AT-4 rocket launchers ...

"I'm happy that they are taking pride and expect nothing but perfection ... As they are getting combat ready in SOI, the attention to detail will be life and death later. We love all the Marines - especially the ALPHA Co."

After training briefly in Hawaii, Suter returned to Stevenson Ranch with "stories about boot camp" and was eager to do his duty for his country, Ure said.

Holly Martin Gross set up a special Facebook page - "R.I.P. Jake Suter" - for those wishing to honor him, and quoted philosopher Joseph Campbell: "A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself."

Bob Kellar, president of the Santa Clarita Valley Veterans Memorial Committee, shocked Memorial Day attendees with news of Suter's death, noting that the young man's parents were in Delaware and asking everyone to honor a moment of silence.

Suter's parents, Chris and Michelle Unthank, of Bates Place in Stevenson Ranch, are on the East Coast state to retrieve the body of their son. They are due back in California late Tuesday.

Marine Pfc. Jake W. Suter was killed in action on 5/29/10.

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