Area Soldier Killed in Iraq
By Marianne Love
LA PUENTE - Army Spc. Marcelino R. Corniel had just five days left in Baghdad, 13 days before he would arrive stateside and 23 days before saying, "I do."
But the life of the 23-year-old National Guard member from La Puente was cut short Saturday when he was killed in a mortar attack, authorities said.
The death of Corniel, a former Marine assigned to the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment in Fullerton, has left a huge whole in their life.
"I don't know what I'm going to do without him," said his mother, Elaine Lopez, 43.
Corniel, whose family members called him Ronnie, served four years as a Marine, went to Iraq and was sent back a second time in September with the Army National Guard.
Lopez said she didn't want her son, a Bassett High School graduate, to re-enlist, but he told her he wouldn't be sent back to Iraq. Family members have agonized over the details of not knowing exactly how Corniel died; they said he always wore full-body protection.
His grandmother, Geraldine Vigil, described her grandson as confident and a born leader who loved guns, protected the women in the family and was a role model. She said he was set to get a bronze star with a "V" for valor for an incident earlier in Iraq, where his actions saved other troops.
Vigil said Corniel loved music. He started a band last year called Crash Ride, which recorded a CD titled "Never Forget," before reenlisting.
Corniel's biological father died when he was young.
His sisters, Kristen Lopez, 16, a junior at Bassett High School and Kimberly Lopez, 14, a freshman at Bassett, said Corniel was the best brother who always included them in everything he did.
The last one to speak with him was his fiancee, Claudia Calderon, 24, of Bellflower.
Calderon said they had set their wedding date.
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