LCpl. Jesse Tillery
(reprinted from, December 5, 2006)

VESPER, Wis. | A North Carolina-based Marine killed in Iraq has two brothers serving with the Army, one also on active duty in Iraq and the other a veteran of two tours there, family friends said.

Lance Cpl. Jesse D. Tillery, 19, of rural Vesper, Wis. died Saturday from wounds suffered during combat in Anbar province, the Pentagon said in a statement Monday. Tillery was assigned to 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

His father, Martin, said he was told his son was in a vehicle with three other Marines when an accident happened.

“We don’t want to take attention away from the other crewmen that were injured,” he said. “Three other crewmen were injured and they should be remembered in our prayers.”

Martin Tillery said he was waiting for his children to return home before commenting further.

The Rev. Milt Van Natta, who was Tillery’s teacher at Sunday school at Baker Street Community Church, said Jesse Tillery also had a sister, Joelle.

Van Natta said his brother, Jared, is serving in Iraq and his other brother, James, has served two terms and is due to go back next summer.

“I think that’s important because this family is sacrificing as much for this cause as any family I can think of,” Van Natta said. “I think that says a lot about the character of the family.”

Jesse Tillery graduated from Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids in 2005, Principal Gus Mancuso said, declining further comment until Tuesday.

Tyler Hamel, 19, who also graduated from Lincoln in 2005 and now attends the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, said he and Tillery were best friends from the second to sixth grades before losing touch somewhat in later years.

“I just knew that he was a great guy once you got to know him,” he said.

In their grade-school years, “most of the time we always played like war games that he made up,” Hamel said. “He had a lot of war action figurines and ships and stuff. He’d always have this imagination and made up new games.

“It was his dream to go in the military,” he said.

Staff Sgt. Timothy Edwards, a spokesman at Camp Lejeune, said Tillery joined the Marines in August 2005 and was a crewman on an amphibious assault vehicle. Tillery, who was single, joined the 2nd Battalion in February and was deployed to Iraq in September, Edwards said.

“His unit is working in conjunction with Iraqi forces,” Edwards said.

Tyler Hamel’s father, Dave Hamel of Wisconsin Rapids, remembered Tillery as the polite, conscientious youth he hired to help plant some trees and do haying on his farm when Tillery was just entering high school. He talked to Tillery again later when he was about to graduate.

Tillery, whose father is a truck driver, was “kind of quiet” but really polite, Hamel said. “He called me ‘Mr. Hamel.’ He was really very polite compared to a lot of kids his age.”