Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Marine Capt. Ryan K. Iannelli

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Capt. Ryan K. Iannelli, 27, of Clarksboro, N.J.

Capt. Iannelli was assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269, Marine Air Group 29, 2nd Marine Air Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C.; died Sept. 28, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations.

Capt Iannelli, an AH-1W Super Cobra pilot, graduated from Kingsway Regional High School in 2002, where he was in the National Honor Society and was caption of the baseball team and played the positions of centerfield and second base. He graduated from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., where he also played ball. He earned a degree in public relations and advertising. He also received an MBA from Felician College in Lodi.

A lifelong Philadelphia Phillies fan, Iannelli coached an American Legion baseball team in Williamstown as recently as 2007, but by 2009 had joined the Marine Corps.

Coach Jim Ambrosius said Iannelli served as team captain for two years. “I never saw any reluctance or fear in him,” the coach said. “He was just a person of tremendous character.

“The most touching thing about him was that when he put his mind to something, it was total commitment,” Ambrosius continued. “Ryan was the ultimate achiever.”

“He loved baseball, but he always said if things didn’t work out on the baseball field, he’d follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and join the military. He knew the risks, but he had such a love of his family and a love of his country. He had a very deep belief in God. Ryan and his whole family are very spiritual, " Ambrosius said.

“Anyone who came across Ryan knew what a special kid he was,” he said. “He was a special kid who turned into a special man.

“When you enter the field of teaching and coaching,” Ambrosius said, “you think of what you can impart on the kids you work with, but you get to a point at which you’re learning from one of them.”

Oral Roberts University baseball coach Rob Walton, a fellow Jersey native, said, “We both missed the food. We were always looking for a place to get a good (pizza) pie,” Walton said. The two eventually did find a place to get some good New York style pizza, and the would make weekly trips to get a fix.

When Walton got sick and had to be taken from baseball practice to the hospital where he eventually had his gallbladder removed, Iannelli decided to do something special for his coach.

“After a few hours he swings by and he has a slice of pizza from the pizza shop,” Walton said. “In a nutshell that’s the kind of guy he was and the relationship we had. I’ll never forget him walking into the hospital with that slice of pizza, it was hilarious.”

Walton plans on memorializing his former player by dedicating the Oral Roberts’ baseball team’s season to him and his family — and the team will wear his number on their jerseys — because although Iannelli didn’t get a lot of playing time at the school, he still had a major impact on his team.

“The guys gravitated to him a bit,” Walton said. “Even tough he wasn’t a major role player on the team, he was an emotional role player for the guys on the team.”
Mary Foster, his third grade teacher, remembers the young boy that she taught and how he was always very focused.

“I just remember this little boy with dark, dark hair and a very determined look on his face, always doing his work, hand raised, asking questions if he wasn’t sure, but otherwise very quiet,” she said. “I am just sad beyond words.”

Another teacher at the school, Cindy Morris, said, “I don’t think anybody could have ever said a mean thing about him,” she said. “He was the kind of student you want your kid to be.”

“Whether you knew him for five minutes or five years, he impacted you in a positive way,” said Capt. Scott Neidecker, a Super Cobra pilot with the squadron. “He was the kind of guy who would do anything for anyone.”

Neidecker said he had known Iannelli since they met at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., for flight school.

“We worked in [operations], writing the schedule together,” Neidecker said. “After I checked in with the squadron, he came out here, too, and we still wrote the schedule together. We were really good friends. He was my best friend here.”

Days before Iannelli’s death, Col. Ben Hancock, the assistant wing commander for 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), traveled to Camp Dwyer to fly with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269. There he met the young captain. Hancock flew a mission that Iannelli had been slated to go on.

“Here comes this old colonel, taking his flight time,” Hancock said. “A lot of guys would have been upset, but he was very gracious, very sharp, very motivated and very helpful.”

Hancock said Iannelli lent him his helmet, his flight vest, his supply of cold water and even his rifle.

“We all know that this is a part of our profession, we all understand there’s an element of potential risk and sacrifice,” said Hancock. “We’re all hopeful that we will grow old and be alive and well, but we all know there are a lot of very great young Marines and exceptional people who die in the line of duty.”

Capt Iannelli was laid to rest at Gloucester County Veterans memorial Cemetery in Williamstown, New Jersey.

Capt Iannelli is survived by his parents, Donna and Kenneth; sister, Amanda.

Marine Capt. Ryan K. Iannelli was killed in action on 9/28/11.

No comments: