Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Marine Lance Cpl. Ralph J. Fabbri

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Ralph J. Fabbri, 20, of Gallitzin, Pa.

LCpl. Fabbri was assigned to Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died Sept. 28, 2010 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Lance Cpl. Ralph Fabbri would have celebrated his 21st birthday Wednesday. Instead, his grieving family released a bouquet of balloons in his memory last night - a day after the 2008 Penn Cambria High School graduate was killed during military operations in war-torn Afghanistan, they said.

While details of Fabbri's death have not yet been released by the Department of Defense, it appears Afghanistan's violent southern tier is again to blame for the Cambria County Marine's death. The Gallitzin native is believed to be the lone Marine reportedly killed in an insurgent attack Tuesday. He is one of two combat deaths this week, both occurring in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, where Operation Dragon Strike has been under way for weeks to flush out militants, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Fabbri primarily worked as a combat photographer, his cousin Stacy Hoover said. He was in the final weeks of an approximately six-month tour in Afghanistan and his first in the Middle East since joining the Marine Corps in 2008, the Cresson woman said. "He was scheduled to be back on home soil in three weeks," said Hoover, 34, adding that it has made the news especially heartbreaking for family members.

Hoover was handling arrangements for Fabbri's grieving family Wednesday. The family released a statement saying the 21-year-old "will be remembered as a down-to-earth, fun-loving and considerate person who chose to serve his country."

Hoover described Fabbri as a proud Marine who saw military service "as the right thing to do" but who aspired to become an art teacher after ending his tour. It would have suited Fabbri, Penn Cambria school officials said.

Penn Cambria Superintendent Mary Beth Whited recalled his days as an honor student in the district, his friendly smile and his strong interest in art, science and history courses. "He took pretty much every history course he could while he was here; he just loved it," she said. His enthusiasm and talent left a legacy at the school, Whited added.

Some of his artwork was framed during his high school years and remains a part of the district's permanent art collection on display in the high school, she said.

The district lowered flags Wednesday in his honor. They'll remain that way until he is laid to rest, she said. Flags were also at half-staff in Gallitzin, where word spread quickly that a native son had passed.

Mayor Ray Osmolinski Sr. said he was awakened by a phone call Wednesday about the news. "He was known around town. He was a well-liked young man," said Osmolinski, who said he did not know the Marine personally but knows both parents. "When something like this happens it hits home in a small town. It's heartbreaking."

Marine Lance Cpl. Ralph J. Fabbri was killed in action on 9/28/10.

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