CAMP RAMADI, Iraq -- A friendly and open-hearted figure in life, Cpl. Christopher D. Leon was honored here June 23 by hundreds of fellow service members, many with personal memories of the 20-year-old Lancaster, Calif., native.
Leon was wounded when his team came under attack while conducting combat operations in Ramadi, one of the most dangerous cities in Iraq. He died from his wounds June 20.
The memorial service was attended by service members from multiple units based here, including Leon's unit, 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, based out of Camp LeJeune, N.C., and the Army's 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division.
Leon was a radio operator attached to 2nd ANGLICO, serving as an augment from his home unit 5th ANGLICO in Okinawa, Japan.
During the service, Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher D. Lunsford, Leon's corpsman, read several letters on behalf of those who knew him best.
"Right now, I'm upset that they took away a part of my family," one letter read. "What I really want now is to have you back, but I know that won't happen."
Another letter read, "If you were still here today, I'd make a bet ... that I'd change my ways and become a better man because of what you taught me. Life is too short to wait until tomorrow. I'll never forget you."
Capt. Adam W. Blanton, the firepower control team leader for 2nd ANGLICO, was in charge of Leon for the last 11 months. He remembered his fallen warrior as the consummate professional, an example for all his fellow Marines.
"Corporal Leon was everything I could have asked for in a Marine. (He was) the quiet professional, who would do his job without complaint and do it well," said Blanton, a 27-year-old native of Riverside, Calif. "He was a Marine other Marines strive to become.
"He was an approachable individual with a good head on his shoulders and wisdom beyond his years," Blanton said. "He was our friend. He was the buddy that laughed with us, sweated with us, and walked every piece of dirt we walked, but with a heavier pack and a smile on his face."
The ceremony featured a musical tribute to Leon and a ceremonial rifle salute. After the ceremony, the audience - many of whom stood through the service due to the large number in attendance - all paid their individual respects to their friend and fellow service member.
"There is now a hole in our lives," Blanton said.
Leon's awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
Email Cpl. Redding at firstname.lastname@example.org.