Thursday, December 02, 2004

I + H -- Another loss in Iraq

PFC Cantafio was a member of the platoon Phil trained with over the summer.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Smith LtCol Mark A"
Subject: Update 29 Nov 04

It is my most unfortunate duty to report to you that on Thursday, 25
November, 2004 the following Marine from 2/24 gave his life in service to
the Nation:

PFC Ryan J. Cantafio, Co G, 2nd Bn, 24th Marines.

PFC Cantafio was the turret gunner of a HMMWV that was conducting a night
patrol along one of the Main Supply Routes in our zone. The vehicle
detonated an improvised explosive device, and PFC Cantafio was struck and
killed by a piece of the shrapnel. Three other members of his team were
injured in the blast, two of whom were medevaced to the Combat Surgical
Hospital, and one of whom will shortly be returned to duty.

[Click "Read and comment..." to continue]

On Saturday, 27 November, I attended the memorial service held for Ryan by
the Marines of Co G at their FOB in Lutayfiyah, Iraq. It was a tremendously
painful and sad event. Ryan was loved by his fellow Marines, and they feel
his loss very deeply. Being among men that are as tough as nails, living in
a situation that is even tougher, and seeing them brought to uncontrollable
tears and sobbing crushes the soul. But then...but then, they speak! The
eloquence of their words and the stories they share of the fallen bring you
back from the abyss of despair to the pinnacle of hope. Hope that in any
situation, human kindness lives. Hope that in the midst of death and
tragedy, opportunity and beauty will break with the dawn of the next day.
Among these Warriors, among these men, among these Marines, fear, pain and
despair are ALWAYS replaced by peace, kindness and gentle beauty.

Ryan's Company Commander Maj Adam Holton was first to eulogize him. Adam is
as smart as they come. He is a Naval Academy Grad and the "rocket
scientist" that we always joke about as not being part of the military.
Adam is the kind of man that just exudes grace and dignity in any situation.
Adam addressed his Marines and spoke of Ryan's decision point. He spoke of
the fact that early on Ryan had had a rough patch in the USMC and was facing
disciplinary action as a result. Adam told his Marines that instead of
taking the easy way, discharge, Ryan made the decision to recover. Ryan
took the hard way. Ryan took the way of honor. And, he did so because he
wanted to complete his obligation with honor and to serve his country and
his fellow Marines. Adam expressed that from the day Ryan told him about
his decision, he had been a stellar Marine. He was an example of habitually
doing the right thing. He, as a young PFC, set the standard of excellence
for all others to emulate. For that, Adam was especially thankful for his
time with Ryan.

In closing, Adam Holton said something that struck you as hard in the gut as
if Evander Holyfield had just crushed you with a jab. He said that as he
thought about what he would say in front of the Marines under his charge to
give meaning to the death of PFC Ryan Cantafio, he decided he had shamed
himself! He shamed himself in the mere thought that he had to say or do
anything to give meaning to the death of PFC Ryan Cantafio. He said,
because you see, the meaning of PFC Ryan Cantafio's death was in his LIFE!
He was the Marine always asking to go on patrol. He was the Marine always
seeking to do more. He was the Marine who never complained, who never
whined, who just pressed and pressed and pressed that he could be of service
to his brothers! Now in a life lived of such service, no higher praise can
be paid a man in his death. So Adam Holton, a man for whom I have immense
repect, reminded us all in his contemplation, that PFC Ryan Cantafio
unfortunately left us for paradise far sooner than any of us would have
wanted, but he left us with not only the profound meaning of his short life,
but with an example of how our own lives should be lived.

The last person to memorialize Ryan was his best friend in the Platoon, LCpl
Daniel F Kryst. Now, how Daniel memorialized Ryan was so soul searing, I
found myself in the uncontrolled spasms of short breath that only intense
crying can cause. Daniel is an excellent Marine and a wonderful young Man.
But in his youth, (21) he is typical of most young, single American males of
his age, particularly Marines: full of life, desiring mostly fun and to
chase American Women. Yet, what did this young Marine want to share about
Ryan? This young Marine who had shared combat, strife and misery with Ryan
under almost unbearable conditions? This young Marine, who one would think
would speak of the "fun" times and the "challenging" times, wanted most to
share what a DEVOTED and LOVING husband Ryan was to his beautiful bride
Amanda. He spoke of how Ryan NEVER missed a day that it did not begin
without Ryan taking out and looking at his picture of his wife. He talked
about how much Ryan LOVED and ADORED his wife, and how his dream was to
return to her and raise a family. The pain of that shattered dream is
intense, and for Amanda has to seem unbearable. But, in the fact that he
could have had that kind of impact of a fellow Marine with the intensity of
love for his wife, assures me that LCpl Kryst will one day be a magnificent
husband. And he will be in no small part due to having shared his life with
PFC Ryan Cantafio! The kind of love Ryan had for and shared about Amanda
inspires us to continue, and exemplifies for all of us the true costs of
freedom and the Warriors and Warrior families who bear it.

Amanda, Ryan has touched us all, and I cannot even begin to express our pain
and sorrow for your loss. I hope and pray you will always know how much he
was loved by his fellow Marines, and that his love for you burnt so brightly
that it provided a light of guidance for his fellow Marines in their lives.
That is the immortality he left with us. The immortality he leaves with you
is the soft breeze on a summer day, the light warmth in the chill of autumn,
the peace amidst the chaos and pain. All these things he will bring you,
because he will forever be with you! The kind of love Adam had for you is
not broken by the sting of death, merely interrupted in time and space. May
God Hold You in the Palm of His Hand, and guide you and be your strength.
And may the constant prayers for your peace from every Marine of this
Battalion, and those of their families work miracles in your life.

It has been my pleasure, my priviledge and my HONOR to have served with PFC
Ryan J Cantafio.

GOOD NIGHT SWEET AND GENTLE WARRIOR, GO SOFTLY INTO YOUR HEAVENLY REWARD.

Yours in deep grief and unflinching respect and admiration of you and your
beloved Marine.

Mark A. Smith

Mark A. Smith, LtCol USMCR
TF 2/24 Commanding Officer, 24 MEU
Mahmudiyah, Iraq

3 comments:

diane said...

Thank you for posting these. It brings me to tears but reminds me that for every casualty figure I hear on the news, there are scores of people in deep pain. God bless everyone in harms way right now.

Kuz said...

I'm glad to do it. I noticed that people have been adding comments to old posts about other letters from Iraq, so remember that if you want to search the blog for a particular name or city, you can use the Google search bar at the bottom of the page.

Anonymous said...

Ryan was my friend...and Amanda is my best friend...and I have to admit that when I miss him, I go back and read all the wonderful things people said about him. It hurts to remember that he is gone, but I am relieved to know that others saw what an extraordinary man he was. He will always be missed and loved by us all. And in Amanda's heart, he will live forever. She will take him with her in every part of her life, and in that, he, too, will live.
Thank you for the kind words...in the midst of all the sorrow, it brings us back to the happier thoughts about him.