CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq -- The 2nd Marine Division recently celebrated the life of one of its Marines in a memorial service, July 27, at the chapel here.
Corporal Ramona M. Valdez, a 21-year-old field radio operator, was from Bronx, N.Y. The 2001 graduate of Jane Addams High School was killed when a suicide car bomber struck the 7-ton truck she was on.
Valdez’ friends, comrades and leaders filtered into the chapel’s air-conditioned vestibule. The cool air was a welcoming sanctuary from the dead heat of the day, but it didn’t lift the spirits of the mourners who gathered into the seats and crowded the doorways to pay homage to their fellow Marine.
A lone bugler played “Church Call” as the service members took their seats and places. Division Chaplain Capt. Mark L. Tidd welcomed everyone and gave the invocation.
Even though she was the lowest ranking member of her section in the division’s communications staff, Valdez had clout when it came to business and brought smiles to so many faces during her time with the unit, according to Master GySgt. Keith A. Sylvain, the division communications chief.
“She was always a joy to work with,” said Sylvain. “She came here as a radio operator and driver, but she ended up becoming involved in our equipment purchasing and many other things outside of her normal duties. She helped the different sections because she was so diverse and she even helped make sure the Iraqi elections earlier in the year went smoothly with communications support.”
When killed in action, Valdez was temporarily assigned to an entry control point in the city of Fallujah just a few kilometers west of here. Her job was to search Iraqi women and female children who entered the city in support of an effort to secure the area of weapons threats.
Some close friends sat in the front row as people spoke at the podium, reciting anecdotes from happier days or testifying to the true happiness she brought to her unit.
“We were inseparable,” said Lance Cpl. Hilary Muniz, a 20-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., native and Valdez’s best friend. “She had an attitude and definitely spoke her mind. She would chase you down to tell you how she felt about something.”
First Sgt. Sandra K. Kehrt, Headquarters and Service Company, Headquarters Battalion first sergeant conducted the roll call soon after, where three Marines in Valdez’ section answered in loud voices – ‘present!’ after their names were called. Kehrt called out the last name and there was silence.
“Corporal Valdez. . . Corporal Valdez. . . Corporal Ramona M. Valdez!”
The bugler played “Taps,” a military tradition for fallen service members. The sound of the bugle rang throughout the chapel, evoking strong feelings from the crowd as tears rolled down many of their faces. Muniz signed the guest book and later recalled some of her memories together with Valdez.
“The hard part is that we went everywhere together. She was going to help me get my driver’s license when I get out and we were both looking forward to maybe getting a place together. She was always there when I needed her and that’s what I’ll always remember.”