Marines of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment gathered at the Habbaniyah Chapel June 3 to memorialize a fallen brother.
Lance Cpl. Benito Ramirez, a machine gunner with Jump Platoon, Headquarters and Support Company was killed in action May 21. He was 21 years old.
"There's nothing I can say to alleviate the pain and hurt that the Ramirez family must feel," said Lt. Col. Patrick Looney, the battalion commander. "But what I can offer is that Benito died in performance of a job he loved, with men he loved and who loved him."
Ramirez, better known as "Cheeks" to his fellow Marines, was born July 28, 1984, and grew up in Edinburg, Texas. He joined the Marine Corps December 3, 2002 and checked into the Darkhorse battalion May 21, 2003.
"He took up the obligation to serve in a time of war when many would not," said Capt. Monte Powell, the company commander. "He was a good son to his parents and a good friend to his fellow Marines. He was on a mission indeed. A mission that he intended to accomplish and that he did."
Ramirez deployed to Iraq twice with Weapons Company and remained with the unit until he was assigned to the battalion's personnel security detachment. Everywhere he went, he was remembered for both his sense of humor and proficiency in combat.
"He had a quick and sharp wit and you could always count on Cheeks to lighten the mood, or bust your chops," Looney said. "If there was a leader to the lance corporal mafia, it was Cheeks."
Cpl. Jason Morrow, also a machine gunner with Jump Platoon, met Ramirez at the School of Infantry at Camp Pendleton in 2003. They spent their first two deployments in different companies until they were assigned to Jump in October 2005.
The 27-year-old from Anaheim, Calif. recalled a recent trip to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego with Ramirez.
"I wore my lance corporal chevrons because I was getting pinned that day," he said. "He didn't have rank with him and we didn't want anybody mistaking him for a recruit so he took my corporal chevrons and wore them.
"He would tell people "Yeah, this is my boot, I'm just taking him around to get his stuff for the deployment." He would think of off-the-wall stuff like that all the time."
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Antonio Padilla, a hospital corpsmen with the battalion's aid station, met Ramirez in 2003 at the Padilla household in Chino, Calif. He said they became friends from the start.
"Just the way he was, his way of being, he always stood out," said Padilla, 20. "He was always ready to make you smile. Anything you ever needed, if it was his, it was yours."
Ramirez's awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with two stars and a Certificate of Commendation.
"Despite his love of a good joke, Cheeks was serious about his profession," Looney said. "From OIF I to Al Fajr, we all slept a little easier when we knew we had him on watch. I know that he's at his post today watching down on all of us to make sure we're safe."
Ramirez planned on working in his father's trucking business when he completed his enlistment.
"To his family, I'm ever so sorry for your loss," Padilla said. "My deepest condolences go to you and everyone who knew him, because he was a great man. Thank you for having brought such a man into this world."