Sgt. Kenneth Conde Jr., U.S.M.C (KIA)
(reprinted from The Phoenixville News, PA, July 1, 2004)
Marine From Orlando Who Returned To War After Injury Is Killed
ORLANDO, Fla. — A Marine who refused to return to the United States after he was wounded in combat in Iraq in April has been killed in action, his father and military officials confirmed Friday.
Sgt. Kenneth Conde Jr., 23, of Orlando, died Thursday while fighting in the Al Anbar province in Iraq, the Department of Defense said in a statement.
“He had to be the best at anything he did,” said his father, Kenneth Conde Sr., a former Marine himself. “He wouldn’t back down from any challenge. Once he focused on something, there was nothing to sideline him.”
One thing that did sideline Conde Jr., but not for long, was a bullet that went into his left shoulder and out through his back during a gunbattle in Ramadi last April. When Conde went down, he heard insurgents cheering and that made him mad, said his father.
“After he fell down, they started cheering and he just got angry and got back up and his platoon kept going forward,” Conde Sr. said. “He refused to receive medical attention until his arm became so numb that he couldn’t hold his weapon anymore. As long as he could fight he wasn’t going to stop.”
Conde Jr. decided to stay in Iraq despite his injury. His platoon, part of Mobile Assault Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment from Camp Pendleton, Calif., is scheduled to return to the United States in September.
“His Marines depended on him,” his father said. “He was not going to leave his platoon.”
Conde Jr. talked to his mother and sisters last weekend. His father last spoke to him two weeks ago. During their conversation, Conde Jr. told his father that the situation in Iraq was a lot worse than was being relayed in the United States.
“It was getting overwhelming, day in and day out, getting through this hell hole. A lot of things were happening over there that they weren’t publicizing here,” said Conde Sr. “They weren’t passing stuff on because, I guess, it would make things worse here in the United States for the president and stuff like that.”
His son never went into details because “he wasn’t going to badmouth the Marine Corps., said the father.
Conde Jr. enjoyed art and weightlifting and joined the Marines out of high school, following in his father’s footsteps.
“As a Marine, I understand the decisions he made. I respect them,” Conde Sr. said. “As a father, I wish he had come home … Hopefully, it’s going to be worth something and not just be a number or a statistic.”