Los Angeles Daily News
Simi Marine killed in Iraq
By Angie Valencia-Martinez and Lisa Friedman
Saturday, April 09, 2005 - SIMI VALLEY -- Marine Lance Cpl. Juan C. Venegas was killed in combat in Iraq, officials announced Friday. He was the fourth Simi Valley serviceman killed in action since the war began.
Venegas, a scout sniper on his second tour of duty, died Thursday in a vehicle accident during combat operations in the Al Anbar province. He is the 1,538th military member to die in the war.
Those who knew Venegas described him as the much-beloved oldest child who was a role model to his four sisters. Venegas joined the Marines two years ago over the objections of his mother.
"There are not enough words to describe him that could match up to him," said his fiancee, Mariam Khoury, 23, fighting back tears. "He's one of those people you call perfect."
In letters home, he never mentioned the raging battle around him or the constant threat of death. Instead, he would assure his parents and four sisters that he was fine.
"Go to school. Clean the house. Stay out of trouble," he gently reminded his sisters. "But most importantly, listen to Mom."
"He had so much love and respect for his mom and wanted nothing but the best for his sisters, family and friends," Khoury said.
In the Marines, the 2003 graduate of Simi Valley High School was one of a small group counted on to clear the way for his unit with advanced reconnaissance work, a Marine spokesman said. He was a skilled leader who earned top marks in performance reviews.
But he also dreamed of returning home to become a firefighter and pursue boxing.
His sister, Erica Venegas, 19, said she was home alone on Thursday when uniformed Marines knocked on the family's apartment door to deliver the news.
"As soon as I opened the door, I wanted to close it," she said. "He is like no other. There is a lot of shock around here, disbelief, anger."
The news hit especially hard in Simi Valley, which will fly its flags at half-staff on Monday. The city has already buried three casualties of the Iraq war.
Army Spc. Michael A. Diraimondo, 22, was killed Jan. 8. 2004; Marine Cpl. Christopher A. Gibson, 23, died April 22, 2004; and Navy medic John Daniel House, 28, along with 20 Marines, was killed on Jan. 26, 2005, when their helicopter crashed.
"It seems like we are doing more than our fair share of people losing their lives," said Mayor Paul Miller. "It brings the war home to all of us; it's no longer in a faraway land. It's personal and local."
Staff Writer Rachel Uranga contributed to this report.
Angie Valencia-Martinez, (805) 583-7604 firstname.lastname@example.org