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Bin Laden reaction: Mother of killed Marine feels 'wave of satisfaction'

May 2, 2011 |  2:34 pm

Rogelioramirez Irene Ramirez’s oldest son called her Sunday night to tell her the news. The Pasadena resident immediately turned on her television and learned the details about the death of Osama bin Laden.

Ramirez's 3-year-old grandson, Rogelio Ramirez Jr., was over for the night as he often is. Four years ago, the boy’s father and her son, Rogelio Ramirez, joined the Marines and died in Iraq after five weeks in the country.

Photos: Osama bin Laden dead

As she processed the news, little Rogelio looked up at her.

“He saw me crying and … I said I have a headache,” she said. “He said, 'You’re going to be OK,’ and he gave me a hug. As I looked down to him and into his little eyes, I thought, 'If you only knew.’ That’s what his dad went through this for -- so he could grow up safe.”

Ramirez felt “a wave of everything -- not revengeful, but just a wave of satisfaction that all these kids, these men and women who have died, it wasn’t in vain. Especially for my son -- he went with a purpose and it was accomplished.”

Ramirez remembered what the elder Rogelio told her before he left.

“He said, 'When people talk about the Iraq war, I want people to remember me. I was part of it. I was involved. I want people to remember me when they talk about that war,’ ” Ramirez said, her voice breaking.

There will come a time, she said, when little Rogelio is old enough to hear his father’s story.

“At the end of it, we can tell him this story, too, that this terrorist was killed,” she said.

Her son had never shown much direction in life. But when he turned 19 he became determined to join the Marines and went on a two-year campaign to do so.

He was a high-school dropout, unacceptable to the Marines. So he attended Pasadena City College, got his general-equivalency diploma and completed a dozen more college credits in Italian, Spanish and math.

He owed money for truancy fines he racked up during high school. The Marines do not accept anyone with large debts. So he got a night job at McDonald’s while his mother redeemed bottles and cans to pay off bills.

Meanwhile, he worked out every day at 5 a.m. with Marines at PCC.

He had a tattoo of three dots between his left thumb and index finger that refers to the gang saying “Mi Vida Loca,” although his mother said he got it as a prank when he was young and never had any involvement in gangs.

Still, the Marines would not accept him with the tattoo. Nor was it acceptable when he had it changed into a single die. So one Sunday when his mother was at church Ramirez took a pair of scissors, went to the bathroom and cut the tattoo off his hand.

“When I saw it, it was raw, bleeding,” his mother remembered. “He said, 'Mom, I’m going to go.’ ”

He passed the Marine entrance exam and left for induction one morning shortly after his 21st birthday. He went to Iraq in July 2007 and was killed five weeks later by a roadside bomb in Anbar province.

He left behind a girlfriend, Carla Lopez, pregnant with little Rogelio. But before he left for Iraq he did one more thing. He had an entire 77-word quotation from British political philosopher John Stuart Mill tattooed on the right side of his torso: 

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.

"The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”


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-- Sam Quinones

Photo: Rogelio Ramirez was killed after five months in Iraq.

Click to learn more about the more than 600 Californians who have died in support of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq

Readers are invited to share memories about Rogelio Ramirez on the California's War Dead database which chronicles the lives of more than 600 Californians who have died while supporting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.