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Marine Lance Cpl. Derek L. Gardner

Died September 6, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

20, of San Juan Capistrano, Calif.; assigned to Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; killed Sept. 6 due to enemy action in Anbar province, Iraq.

In the year before his deployment to Iraq, Derek L. Gardner moved in with his girlfriend, April Ornelas. On Christmas Eve, he asked her to marry him when he returned from overseas. "One of the things he said before he left was, 'This isn't goodbye sweetheart, this is hello to our new beginning,'" said Ornelas, 18. The 20-year-old motor vehicle operator from San Juan Capistrano, Calif., was killed Sept. 6 by a car bomb in Iraq's Anbar province. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif. A pro wrestling fan, Gardner came from a military family. A great-grandfather fought in World War I, his grandfathers served in Korea and World War II, and his father was a Marine in Vietnam. "He was a proud Marine," Vickey De Lacour said of her son. "He walked like a Marine, he talked like a Marine. He was just doing his job." Other survivors include his father, Ken.

— Associated Press

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2002   2001

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