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Marine Lance Cpl. Ramon Mateo

Died September 24, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

20, of Suffolk, N.Y.; assigned to Headquarters and Service Company, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif.; killed Sept. 24 by enemy action in Anbar province, Iraq.

Ramon Mateo surprised everyone with a sudden visit from Iraq early this month. First, he went to his mother's workplace, stood silently behind her as her colleagues beamed, and savored the expression on her face when she turned around. Then, in a gleeful succession of lightning-strike visits, he surprised other members of his family. But, after a two-week leave, he was gone, back to Iraq. Mateo, 20, of Suffolk County, N.Y., died Sept. 24 in Anbar province. A 2002 high school graduate, he was based at Twentynine Palms, Calif. "It hasn't really sunk in yet, because he was here only a week ago," said his sister, Sonia Rivera. "It was almost as if God sent him one more time to say goodbye." Mateo's stepfather, Miguel Rivera, who works at a Huntington car dealership, said Mateo had hoped to use his military training to become a diesel mechanic. "He wanted to make his family proud, and for his cousins to look up to him," said his wife, Concetta, whom he married in May 2003. "He was a baby, only 20 years old," said his father, Pedro Mateo. "He came home, had a good time, then, bang, that was it."

— Associated Press

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