MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- 15-minute drive through Fallujah, Iraq, on June 23, 2005, turned into one of the worst days in history for female U.S. Marines. A suicide bomber drove his car into a convoy, causing a massive explosion that killed three women and three men and severely burnt seven other women.
Cpl. Ramona M. Valdez, a communications specialist with Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), was serving with the Female Search Force when she was killed in the attack while the convoy was on its way back to Camp Fallujah.
To honor the memory of the fallen Marine, the II MEF Communications Training Center was dedicated as the Valdez Training Facility during a building dedication ceremony here, June 1.
Valdez, a Purple Heart Medal recipient, was an invaluable member of the 2nd Marine Division Communication Operations Section during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Valdez’s most significant work was with Division’s Counter Improvised Explosive Device Working Group. The success of the tests conducted by CIEDWG was in a large part attributed to Valdez’s knowledge of single-channel radios.
The impact Valdez made in her field was a driving force behind the dedication of a top communications training facility.
“Her legacy will live on here for years to come,” said Col. John A. Del Colliano, the division chief for network plans and policy for Command, Control, Communications and Computers, Headquarters Marine Corps. “We’re dedicating a training facility in her honor to guarantee future Marines have the same skills and knowledge when they get to the field.”
Valdez, who joined the Marine Corps in 2002 to help support her mother, was featured on a plaque affixed near the entrance of the training facility. Valdez’s mother, Elida Valdez, was overcome with emotion as she cut the building’s ribbon and approached the newly revealed plaque.
“We have not traveled these long distances to honor a building,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Sylvain, the communications information systems chief for Marine Forces Reserve. “We pay tribute to not only Corporal Valdez but what she represents. She’s a perfect selection to not only represent the communications community but the (noncommissioned officer) corps.”
Before the ceremony concluded, the crowd witnessed the first Radio Operators Course class graduation from the newly-named Valdez Training Facility.
Communications is a rapidly growing field that has advanced significantly throughout the years. Valdez established herself as a pathfinder for future generations to learn and grow from.
“Her name will be associated at a crossroads for communications in the Marine Corps,” Del Colliano said.