COMBAT OUTPOST CASTLE, Afghanistan (4/11/2012) – “It's going to be a little quiet and boring the rest of the deployment now ... without his jokes and all the other stuff he gets us into.”
Cpl. Anthony Gamino, a rifleman and light armored vehicle scout with Delta Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, said this after a memorial service held here, April 8, for a fallen fellow Marine, Cpl. Roberto Cazarez (photo left).
Marines and sailors serving with 1st LAR in Helmand province's Khan Neshin district paid homage to Cazarez, a light armored vehicle driver with the company's Alpha Section, White Platoon, who was killed in action during combat operations March 30.
Like most Marines, Cazarez was quite the character in his unit. His fellow Marines said his spirit in the unit is irreplaceable.
Cazarez was born in Angostura, Mexico. After he graduated from high school in Los Angeles, he enlisted in the Marine Corps to serve a country that he wasn't a citizen of yet.
His first job in the Marine Corps was as a small arms repair technician, commonly known as an armorer to Marines. After he served his first enlistment, he made an uncommon occupation change – he reenlisted into the infantry field, specifically as a light armored vehicle crewman.
Yet, his distinctive background wasn't what he was really known for. He had qualities that were perhaps a bit more unique that Marines said kept them on their toes, close-knit and always smiling.
He was a man of good-natured debates, and “it didn't matter what it was about, or who it was with.”
“Kickball. It's a simple game, but he'd argue every single point about it,” said Cazarez's friend and fellow platoon member Cpl. John W. Nelson II, a Turner, Maine, native. “A couple days before he was killed, we were playing kickball as a platoon at our patrol base, and he was arguing with our platoon sergeant about the score, about the rules of the game and about anything you could think of. He would always argue a good point.”
His wit extended further than arguments, according to everyone who reflected on Cazarez at the ceremony. Gamino said no matter what, he always had a joke for something.
“If you had a joke for him, he had a joke for you,” said Gamino, a native of Oceanside, Calif. “We'd pretty much just make fun of each other. You couldn't even get mad at him. You pretty much had to laugh and walk away.”
Cazarez's platoon commander, 1st Lt. Alexander White, a Fredericksburg, Va., native, said his great sense of humor was a way to “just keep everybody engaged” and “included.”
Cazarez was the platoon commander's light armored vehicle driver. Their mission usually entailed patrolling the rugged battle space, detaching from the outpost for almost weeks at a time. His platoonmates said driving wasn't enough for him. He always volunteered to patrol on foot, a responsibility normally left for the scouts.
“When the crewman would come out to patrol, he'd always come up to us and say ‘throw us on patrols, throw us on patrols,'” said Turner, who was a team leader in the section.
His enthusiasm for patrolling and contributing to the mission came with a price he was willing to pay: carrying the Thor, a counter improvised explosive device system that protects Marines from remote detonating IEDs. The system weighs more than 25 pounds and isn't an easy piece of gear to carry, said Turner.
“He'd always carry the Thor,” said Turner. “It really pulled down on your shoulders really bad, and the batteries are extremely heavy for it. But if carrying the Thor is what it took to get on a (foot) patrol, then he was all about it.”
During the memorial service, some of Cazarez's close friends read personal reflections of their fallen friend. Most of which were light-spirited and filled with funny anecdotes. Lieutenant Col. George C. Schreffler, the battalion commander, reminded those in attendance of the impact Marines like Cazarez had in the land they patrolled.
“Cpl. Cazarez made important contributions to the success of his platoon and to the security of the communities where he served in Afghanistan,” said Schreffler, a native of Harrisburg, Pa. “On the day before he fell, I enjoyed the privilege of visiting 2nd Platoon, and patrolling with the Marines in the village of Qual-e Now. We encountered Afghan people who expressed their gratitude for the security that the Marines provide. We also inspected the police precinct in Qual-e Now. While there, the patrolman greeted us warmly and by name. This kind of relationship is difficult to achieve and it displayed to me the dedication and skill that Cpl. Cazarez and the other members of 2nd Platoon (White Platoon) invest in their mission every day.”
Cazarez is survived by his wife Sonia. Sgt. Gregory Hartman, a vehicle commander with Delta Company, said Cazarez loved being a Marine, but his love for his wife was “indescribable with words.”
“She was his world,” he said.
Delta Company's first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Erik Starkey, said the Marines will be praying for the Cazarez family and “he'll do great things for God up in heaven.”
More photos of Marine Cpl. Roberto Cazarez's memorial service available below | Video of memorial ceremony
By USMC Sgt. Michael Cifuentes
Regimental Combat Team-5, 1st Marine Division
Provided through DVIDS
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