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Marine Capt. Aaron J. Contreras

Died March 30, 2003 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

31, of Sherwood, Ore.; assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA)-169, Marine Aircraft Group-39, Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif.; killed in a helicopter crash in southern Iraq.

Religious father of three was ‘determined at everything’

By Patrick McMahon

USA Today

To his hometown parish priest, Marine Capt. Aaron Contreras, 31, was a devout Catholic who knew his Bible inside and out.

“He was a very unusual young man in a spiritual way,” recalled the Rev. Tom McCarthy, a priest at St. Francis Catholic Church in Sherwood, Ore., a suburb of Portland.

“Aaron was very religious, and believed in his church,” said his father Edward, a Vietnam veteran.

Contreras played football, basketball and ran some track in high school.

“He was determined in everything he did,” his father said.

Contreras and two others died when their UH-1 Huey helicopter crashed Sunday, March 30, at a supply and refueling point in southern Iraq, the Defense Department said.

On Friday, a private memorial service will be held for the three Marines at Camp Pendleton near Oceanside, Calif., where their helicopter squadron is based.

Contreras was born in San Jose, Calif. on July 4, 1971. His family moved to the Portland, Ore., suburb of Sherwood in 1979.

One of five brothers, he is remembered at Sherwood High School as a student-athlete. After high school, he attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz.

He and his wife, Janelle, had three children — one boy and two girls. In recent years the family lived in San Diego.

“The rest of us are going to miss him terribly,” Contreras’ mother, Rosary, told Portland television station KOIN.

“We just hope this war ends soon. I mean for both sides, there are families losing sons, husbands and fathers. We want peace and I know our president is doing the best he can.”

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