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In Memoriam

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LCpl. Jason William Moore, U.S.M.C (NCD)

(reprinted from the San Diego Union Tribune, May 23, 2003)

Copter crashed in canal in Iraq

By Jeanette Steele Dana Littlefield and Michael Burge 
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITERS

Jason William Moore gave it everything – whether it was in the San Marcos High School team swimming pool, on his boogie board at the beach or at Marine Corps boot camp.

The 21-year-old San Marcos resident now has given his life for his nation’s flag, along with three other Camp Pendleton Marines killed when their CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter crashed into a canal in Iraq on Monday.

The Pentagon yesterday identified the dead as Moore, a lance corporal; Capt. Andrew David La Mont, 31, of Eureka; 1st Lt. Timothy Louis Ryan, 30, of Aurora, Ill.; and Staff Sgt. Aaron Dean White, 27, of Shawnee, Okla.

Moore “was gung-ho. He was the only person who complained when boot camp was over because he wanted more,” said Josh Wagner, a friend from adolescence.

“He was an awesome guy, very honorable,” said Sam Scolamieri, another longtime friend. “The way he was hard-core about the Marines, that’s the way it was about his friendships. That’s the kind of guy he was, real stand-up.”

Another Camp Pendleton Marine died trying to rescue the four-member helicopter crew. Sgt. Kirk Straseskie, of Beaver Dam, Wis., a 23-year-old infantryman who was on the canal bank, was identified by the Pentagon on Wednesday.

The craft went down soon after leaving on a resupply mission from Al Hillah, south of Baghdad. There was no sign of enemy fire, military officials said, though the incident remains under investigation.

Moore came from a tightknit military family. Their last conversation came last Friday, when Jason called.

He was busy getting ready to return home and was excited about possibly becoming a crew chief instructor at Camp Pendleton, said his sister, Michelle Moore.

“I just feel bad that I didn’t get to tell him he was going to be an uncle,” said Moore, 22. “He promised me that he’d be back. He promised that nothing would happen to him.”

Known as a person who kept close friendships, Moore stayed in contact with his high school history teacher after graduating in 2000.

“He was a diamond in the rough that just needed some polishing,” teacher Jim Beason said. “I felt like I lost my own son.

“I know the parents raise them, but we (teachers) raise them, too,” Beason said.

“Jason was a special guy. He was doing what he wanted and that’s the good thing. I’m sorry for the family. I’m sorry for the world to lose a kid like this.”

La Mont, one of the pilots, was the youngest of nine children and came from a family with strong ties to the military. His father and grandfather were career military men.

“He was a tremendous son and a fantastic Marine,” his mother, Vivian La Mont, said while sitting on the front porch of her son’s Oceanside home.

La Mont was single and had served with the Marines since graduating from San Diego State University in 1994.

He had intended to become a Marine military policeman, with an eye toward joining federal law enforcement some day, said his older brother, Christopher La Mont, of Eureka. But when a military placement test pointed him toward aviation, he never looked back.

La Mont served in Kosovo in 1999, and helped in the rescue effort after an earthquake in Turkey last year. He also served in Afghanistan, said his mother, who lost her eldest son to an airplane crash years before.

She called her youngest son an “exemplary, very exacting pilot” who spoke little about his work or his fellow Marines.

“It was just his way,” she said. “He was an individual for sure.”

The other pilot, Ryan, took an unlikely path to becoming a Marine officer.

He enlisted in 1997, just weeks after graduating from Illinois State University with a music degree.

He was chosen to play percussion in the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps – an elite 80-musician ensemble. Ryan soon discovered, however, that his true passion was for flying helicopters, said his mother, Judi, in North Aurora.

Ryan, who was married, graduated from the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School and soon after got his wings.

“When he first told me he wanted to fly, I was dumbfounded,” his mother told The Beacon News  in Aurora. “It seemed so out of character for him. He was quiet and laid back and never really wanted to stand out too much.”

But, she said, “I could tell that flying really made him happy . . . he loved it.”

White grew up in a small town in rural Oklahoma, where he rode horses and learned to drive on back roads, said his mother, Karen White.

The family moved to a larger town, Shawnee, where White graduated from high school and soon afterward followed his heart into the military.

“I think he had the calling to serve. He had to serve somebody, serve our country, serve the people,” said his mother. “He needed the challenge the Marine Corps would give him.”

White is survived by a wife and a small daughter, who just turned 1 over the weekend. They are now in Texas with her parents.