Whittier Daily News
Marine told mother he was safe in Japan, not at war in Iraq
By Sandy Mazza Staff Writer
WHITTIER - The last time Rosa Guerrero saw her son Salvador, he was boarding a plane in his Marines dress uniform and taking long last looks at her.
He left Rosa with a kiss that day about three months ago from Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms en route to Iraq. Watching him board the plane, she longed for the day he would come back.
On Friday, three Marine officers visited Rosa at her Whittier home, and told her that her son, Marine Lance Cpl. Salvador Guerrero, 21, died in combat in Al Anbar province, Iraq. Before Friday, Rosa didn't know her son was stationed in Iraq. He told her he was training in Japan, because he didn't want to worry her, said his aunt Maria Vega.
When he called home, he told her that he was training - not fighting guerrilla insurgents.
"He would call and say `Mom I'm really tired, I just got back from training'," Vega said. "He'd say `Mom, I just have a few months to go before I come home. Every day is going by so fast'."
Guerrero was an ammunition man assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Marine Expeditionary Force, in June 2005, according to Twentynine Palms Spokeswoman 1st Lt. Christy Kercheval. Guerrero dreamed of being in the military from a young age, said Vega. After graduating from Frontier High School in 2003, he tried to enlist but was turned away because of his weight.
At about 250 pounds, Guerrero set out to lose nearly 100 pounds so he could enlist. After months of running and working out at a gym, he reached about 170 pounds and was accepted by the Marines, said Vega.
"After he went in the Marines, it was a complete transformation for him," said Vega. "He worked out at the gym and went running. That's how hard he wanted to be in."
Even the grueling, rigid training he received at boot camp was a joy, said Vega.
He called his mother crying from boot camp one day - not because he wanted to leave, but because he wanted to stay.
"I may not stay here," he told her. The Marines said a tattoo he had of an angel was controversial, and worried it might be gang related.
"That's good," she said, relieved her son might come home.
"No, it's not," he said, worried that his dream of being in the military might soon end. After an investigation, the tattoo was found to be harmless, said Vega.
"If he would have been sent back, that would have been such a disaster for him," said Vega.
Guerrero, who was nicknamed Junior, took comfort in the small things that reminded him of home while he was away.
He loved attending a Catholic church at the base, said Vega.
While in the military, Guerrero was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal and the Sea Service Deployment ribbon, according to Kercheval.
Guerrero is the sixth person from the area who has died in Operation Iraqi Freedom since 2003.
He is survived by his mother Rosa, his father Salvador, his 16-year-old brother Rudolpho, and an extended family.
(562) 698-0955, Ext. 3026
Copyright © 2006 Los Angeles Newspaper Group