CAMP DWYER, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan -- One final time, duty came between Lance Cpl. Dominic Ciaramitaro and his loved ones.
Ciaramitaro, a machine gunner with Combined Anti-Armor Team Platoon, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, was known for his uncommon loyalty and commitment to the Corps. He made the ultimate sacrifice during a patrol in Marjah District, Helmand province, April 23.
Lance Cpl. Joshua Jones, a driver with Weapons Company who had served alongside the Grosse Pointe, Mich., native since they endured basic training together, finds himself suddenly without one of his most dependable friends.
Yet ironically, Jones best remembers Ciaramitaro for what must have originally seemed to be an uncharacteristic slip up.
“The day I got married, he was supposed to come to the wedding,” Jones recalled. “About two hours before the ceremony, he called and said he would not be able to make it. I asked him if everything was alright, and he said, ‘yes,’ and that he would call back.”
Later, when the details of the situation came to light, Jones realized that Ciaramitaro had been in top form after all.
“It turned out that a few of his friends from home who had traveled to Canada had called him and said they needed his help,” Jones explained. “Without questioning them, he [drove from North Carolina] to help them. That was who he was. It didn’t matter what the problem was; he would always be there to help his friends.”
Often, Ciaramitaro’s help came in the form of jokes and mischief that would add color to an otherwise dreary day.
Jones recalls Ciaramitaro’s boot camp gum-smuggling escapades -- joint operations that involved his mother sneaking individual pieces into her letters. Inevitably, the drill instructors uncovered the conspiracy and closed the case by condemning Ciaramitaro to the quarterdeck for special sessions of calisthenics.
Yet Ciaramitaro, a resilient and physically fit smart-aleck, would often volunteer himself for the quarterdeck or sand pit to be “smoked” along with the wayward recruits of Platoon 1010, Bravo Company.
“He was always happy, and always had something interesting or funny to say,” Jones said. “He would make the worst day for anyone a better day.”
Not that Ciaramitaro was simply a joker.
“Despite his being one the platoon’s most junior Marines, he operated as if he were much more senior in terms of his initiative and judgment,” said 1st. Lt. Gerard M. Van Amerongen, Ciaramitaro’s platoon commander.
Van Amerongen recalls Ciaramitaro’s “friendly and enthusiastic demeanor when mustering for a patrol, and then his aggressiveness and professionalism once we were outside the wire.”
With more than half a deployment of patrolling behind him, Ciaramitaro was likely beginning to think of returning home.
Last month, Lt. Col. David Hudspeth, the 3/9 commanding officer, published an internet newsletter addressing questions about the first wave of 3/9 Marines scheduled to return to North Carolina.
Yet Ciaramitaro will be uncharacteristically absent once more – this time on a much-anticipated summer day when the Camp Lejeune battalion returns to North Carolina.
Here in Helmand, however, 3/9 will carry the memory of a happy-go-lucky lance corporal who came to maturity well before his time.
“He was one of those Marines who was just blessed in the sense that he was highly intelligent, physically fit, competent, and universally respected,” Van Amerongen said. “He always seemed to know the right thing to do. And yet no one begrudged him for his endowments – or was jealous of him – because he was an absolute gentleman, possessed of selflessness and loyalty.”
Like so many Marines before him, Ciaramitaro is gone but not forgotten.
Editor’s Note: Ciaramitaro was born Aug. 4, 1991. He began his Marine Corps journey, Nov. 16, 2009, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. He graduated from recruit training, Feb. 12, 2010, and reported to School of Infantry at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., shortly thereafter. Upon graduation from SOI, March 23 2010, Ciaramitaro was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Camp Lejeune, for duty as an anti-tank missileman for Weapons Company. He quickly found his niche within the Combined Anti-Armor Team Platoon.
Ciaramitaro was stationed at Patrol Base Wakil Wazir, Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan. He died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
His awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with a combat “V” for valor, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, and the Purple Heart.