Mario K DeLeon
San Francisco, California
April 16, 2007
Killed in Baghdad, Iraq, by enemy small arms fire.
|Mario K. De Leon
Mario K. De Leon''s wife, Erika, described her husband as a warm, playful person who always had some tunes on. "He brought light into everybody''s life. He was goofy. He was a clown. He always made everybody smile. He would pinch cheeks, give them a high five, always putting nicknames on people," she said. De Leon, 26, of San Francisco, was killed April 16 in Baghdad by small-arms fire. He graduated from high school in 1998 in Indiana and was assigned to Schweinfurt, Germany. De Leon enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school and served for four years, including a tour in Afghanistan. De Leon was honorably discharged in 2002 and returned home to go to Santa Rosa Junior College, where he met his wife, Erika. Facing a difficult civilian job market, he re-enlisted and was picked to carry the heavy machine gun because of his rugged 6-foot-2, 240-pound frame. De Leon grew up playing Little League and had a passion for "Star Wars" movies and "ThunderCats" cartoons. He wanted to become a Sonoma County firefighter. He also is survived by his 2-year-old son, Keoni.
Published online on Apr. 17, 2007Sgt.
|From The Los Angeles Times latimes.com 05/06/07:
Army Sgt. Mario K. DeLeon, 26, Rohnert Park; shot while on patrol
May 06, 2007|Anna Gorman | Times Staff Writer
After four years and a tour of duty in Afghanistan, Mario K. DeLeon decided to leave the Army and attend college.
Then he got married and had a son and wanted a steady paycheck and benefits.
So he reenlisted.
"He had a family, and he needed to take care of them," said his mother, Barbara.
But on April 16, the 26-year-old sergeant was shot and killed while on patrol in Baghdad, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division in Schweinfurt, Germany.
DeLeon, who was known by his Hawaiian middle name, Kawika, seemed destined to be in the military. He was born at Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco. His parents and an older brother served in the Air Force. His father was a Vietnam War veteran.
"I pretty much knew he was going to be in the military," said his best friend, Ryan Miller. "His dad was pretty much trying to get us both to join."
DeLeon grew up in Petaluma, Calif., skateboarding, playing basketball, racing street cars and riding motorcycles.
His mother said he was mischievous and full of energy.
"He knew no fear," she said.
He loved hip-hop music and "Star Wars" videos, she said.
DeLeon attended Casa Grande High School in Petaluma before moving to Indiana, where he graduated in 1998.
Immediately after graduation, DeLeon enlisted in the Army and was deployed to Afghanistan. He was honorably discharged in 2002, the same year his father died.
DeLeon enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College and got a job as a kitchen store manager. He also served in the Air Force Reserve.
Last year, he reenlisted in the Army and left for Iraq in October.
Barbara DeLeon, who lives in Cloverdale, Ind., said her son didn't waste words. He would write a two-sentence e-mail, and she would respond with two pages.
"He didn't talk too much," he said. "But when he had something to say, you heard it."
During the holidays, DeLeon went home to Rohnert Park, Calif., for two weeks but left again right before Christmas. During the visit, he spent time with his wife, Erika, and their 2-year-old son, Keoni. He also took a trip to Las Vegas with Miller.
Back in Baghdad, DeLeon spoke to his family daily and called Miller a few times a week. He rarely discussed the war or the dangers he faced.
"He never wanted anybody to worry about him," Miller said.
Miller said he remembers clearly the last thing he said to DeLeon: "Don't get shot out there. Keep your head down."
DeLeon was posthumously promoted to sergeant, his mother said. She said he had planned to stay in the Army until he could retire and then become a firefighter.
A full military service was held for DeLeon at Pleasant Hills Memorial Park in Sebastopol, Calif.
A fund has been set up for Erika and Keoni DeLeon at Summit State Bank, 500 Bicentennial Way, Santa Rosa, CA 95403.
In addition to his wife, son and mother, DeLeon is survived by two brothers, Bruce Meyers and Gabe Meyers.
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