LCpl. Rogelio Ramirez
(reprinted from, August 29, 2007)

Rogelio Ramirez: Loved ones remember Marine who died in Iraq

PASADENA – As a child growing up in Oceanside, Rogelio Ramirez idolized the Marines he saw so often at nearby Camp Pendleton.

He longed to be one of them, his father, Jose Ramirez, of Pasadena, said Tuesday.

“I thought he’d grow out of it, but he didn’t. He watched the Marines, saw how they lived, saw them work as a team.”

But before he could realize that dream, Rogelio had to work past his own demons. Short in stature at 5 feet 5 inches tall, he felt picked on at school because of his size, said his sister, Tina Cordero. As his self-esteem sank, Rogelio lost interest in education, dropped out of Pasadena High School and felt unappreciated.

“It was in his head,” she said. “He had some personal issues, some dark moments and times. We always saw the potential in him, but he didn’t.”

With rekindled determination, however, Ramirez in his late teens tried again to realize his dream of becoming a Marine, his family said.

But before the Corps would accept him, they told Ramirez he had to go back to school and earn his diploma, complete some college credits, clear up some truancy issues and cover over some tattoos, Cordero said.

Ramirez fulfilled all those requirements, she added.

“He was able to climb from that dark place to an honorable place,” she said.

A year ago, Ramirez joined the Marines and later was sent to Iraq. He was there just five weeks when his Humvee hit an improvised explosive device.

On Sunday, U.S. Marine Pfc. Rogelio Ramirez was killed in Iraq. As of Monday, at least 3,731 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The 21-year-old Ramirez left behind his immediate family, a girlfriend who is three months’ pregnant with his child, and plans to buy a home, raise a family and get into real estate after returning home to Pasadena from his stint in the Marines, his relatives said.

His mother said the family plans to bury the young serviceman at Mountain View Cemetery & Mortuary in Altadena. Funeral plans are pending.

Knowing her son died doing what he wanted to do brings comfort to his family, his mother said.

“He was in the infantry, a gunner,” said Irene “Binky” Ramirez. “He wanted to be the first one in. He said, `If I go, I don’t want to be the handle on the sword, I want to be the tip of the sword.”‘

“He wanted to be an American hero,” Cordero said. “He was short, but everybody looked up to him. He had more heart than other guys and people liked to be around him. He was always looking to get the maximum potential out of a situation. He took pride in being a man.”

Ramirez attended Wilson Middle School before going to Pasadena High.

“He was my little homie,” said Carlos Martinez, who attended Pasadena High with Ramirez. “I knew him since the 10th grade. We did the same stuff together. We went through good and bad times together.”

Before joining the Marines, Ramirez covered up a tattoo on his side with another, a quotation about war by John Stuart Mill. It read:

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things … The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”