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Local Marine Buried with Honors

by DJ Friday, Apr. 22, 2005 at 11:51 AM

Gloomy weather settled over Simi Valley on Monday as the family and friends of Juan C. Venegas, a casualty of the war in Iraq, trickled past his tearful fiancee on their way into St. Rose of Lima Church.

Local Marine Buried ...
npvenegas19b_e.jpg, image/jpeg, 300x446

PHOTO CAPTION: Joseph A. Garcia / Star staff. As the service begins at St. Rose of Lima Church, a flag-draped coffin flanked by six pallbearers, each a member of Lance Cpl. Venegas' Marine battalion, makes its way to the altar.

Marine is buried with honors

By Stephanie Hoops, shoops@VenturaCountyStar.com
April 19, 2005

Gloomy weather settled over Simi Valley on Monday as the family and friends of Juan C. Venegas, a casualty of the war in Iraq, trickled past his tearful fiancee on their way into St. Rose of Lima Church.

Heart-wrenching liturgy and song, sung in Spanish by Belen Quezada, rang through the church as row after row filled with mourners dressed in black. As the service began, a flag-draped coffin flanked by pallbearers, each a member of Lance Cpl. Venegas' Marine battalion, slowly made its way toward the altar.

Venegas, 21, died April 7 in a vehicle accident in Anbar province.

In the church lobby, boards displayed his photographs. There he was as a young boy opening gifts in front of a Christmas tree, as a friend joking around, and as having found love. One of the photos, identified as "military ball," shows Venegas in uniform embracing fiancee Mariam Khoury, 23, who wears a blue strapless gown. In one of those carnival booth strips of four black-and-white pictures, one on top of the other, the couple goof around in various poses.

Her soul mate gone, Khoury looked exhausted Monday and leaned on her father's arm as she headed to the pew.

In full dress uniform, Dino Moreno hung around in the lobby, staring at the photos. He was Venegas' platoon sergeant during his first of two tours of duty in Iraq.

"He was kind of quiet for the most part," Moreno said. "He was a good guy, always upbeat and willing to do what had to be done."

Moreno came to the funeral from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, where he is stationed.

Several hundred people attended the Catholic funeral, including military personnel, veterans and members of local law enforcement. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent California Highway Patrol officers to deliver condolences to Venegas' mother, along with a state flag that had flown at half-staff over the Capitol.

"I'm going to miss him a lot," said Venegas' friend Simon Corral, speaking to the gathering from the pulpit. "I'm sure we all will."

Chilly temperatures greeted the mourners at Assumption Catholic Cemetery. Mothers wrapped their children in blankets and pulled sweatshirts over their heads. Some brought flowers. A military guard fired three volleys into the air and in the distance, a muted bugle played taps.

Venegas was laid to rest just feet from where Army Spc. Michael A. DiRaimondo and Marine Cpl. Christopher A. Gibson are buried. Both died in Iraq, DiRaimondo on Jan. 8, 2004; Gibson on April 17, 2004.

Genene Overland, a mortuary staff member, shook her head as she stood outside the ring of mourners. This was the third military burial the cemetery had in the past year, but Overland was not getting used to them.

"They're so young," she said.

Venegas' funeral was rendered with military honors, with the traditional flag-folding and presentation to his mother, Maria.

After the ceremony, she collapsed, sobbing on her son's coffin as the crowd began to disperse.

"It's a sad affair," said Wayne Wright, post chaplain of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post 10049.

Venegas is survived by his mother, his father, Juan Venegas, and his sisters, Erica, 19, Katie, 14, Emely, 10, and Brianna, 7.

Copyright 2005, Ventura County Star. All Rights Reserved.
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Juan Venegas

by DJ Friday, Apr. 22, 2005 at 11:51 AM

Juan Venegas...
npvenegas19a_e.jpg, image/jpeg, 300x196

Joseph A. Garcia / Star staff

Juan Venegas, right, tries to console Maria Venegas at the burial of their son, Juan C. Venegas, at Assumption Catholic Cemetery in Simi Valley on Monday.
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More info...

by DJ Friday, Apr. 22, 2005 at 11:52 AM

Previous articles can be found at this link.
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LA Times article

by DJ Monday, Apr. 25, 2005 at 10:02 AM

Marine Lance Cpl. Juan C. Venegas, 21, Simi Valley; Killed in Vehicle Accident
By Wendy Thermos
Times Staff Writer

April 24, 2005

Joining the military came naturally to Juan C. Venegas of Simi Valley. He loved a challenge, especially anything involving endurance or perfecting a skill.

"I remember how he would shoot pellet guns when we were small," said his sister Erica Venegas, 19. "He would get so into it, trying to be perfect. He'd spend hours adjusting the sight to get the perfect shot."

The 21-year-old Marine Corps lance corporal was killed April 7 in a vehicle accident in Iraq's Al Anbar province, the Department of Defense said. Military officials told his family that Venegas was struck by a Humvee while on patrol. The accident is under investigation.

Venegas' loved ones remember him as someone with both a serious and a fun-loving side.

"He was very shy and quiet when you first met him. But when he was around people he knew, he was a jokester," said his fiancee, Mariam Khoury, 23, a special education assistant with the Los Angeles Unified School District.

During his teen and young-adult years, Venegas thrived on physical activity. He lifted weights daily, often ran in the Simi Valley foothills and regularly joined friends for Wednesday night basketball games.

"He was like a machine. He would just keep going," his sister said. "He carried a backpack filled with potatoes when he went running, for extra weight. He would go nonstop at the basketball games. Everyone else would get tired, but he wouldn't."

Venegas, who attended Simi Valley High School and graduated from continuation school before enlisting in 2003, had dreamed for years of being in the service.

"He wanted to hurry up and graduate so he could join the Marines," said Erica Venegas, a counselor for a Simi Valley after-school program.

The Marine wanted to help his parents buy a house with his military pay.

He met Khoury, a North Hills resident, through friends shortly after boot camp. The two had not set a wedding date, but he talked often of settling down and starting a family. "He looked ahead," she said, adding that he wanted to become a firefighter.

Venegas saw the Marine Corps as a place where he could excel in activities that would stretch his limits. "He took pride in achieving his goals in the military," Khoury said. "Physical exercises, book work, marksmanship — he'd always strive for the best scores in everything."

The Marine was on his second tour of duty in Iraq. He wrote to Khoury almost daily and called her at least once a week.

She said Venegas was constantly worrying about his loved ones. "He'd ask: 'Are the bills getting paid? Did you eat? Did you sleep?' "

Venegas was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Twentynine Palms, Calif. While stationed in Iraq, he was attached to Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.

In addition to his sister Erica, he is survived by his parents, Juan and Maria Venegas, and three other sisters: Katie, 14, Emely, 10, and Brianna, 7, all of Simi Valley.

He was buried at Assumption Cemetery in Simi Valley.

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times
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