|From Florida, Ocala.com
Ocalan who died in Iraq long wanted to be a Marine
By Tom McNiff
Published: Friday, March 13, 2009 at 6:30 a.m.
OCALA - There was never much doubt about what Patrick Malone would do with his life.
At the age of 5, while other children were engrossed in a world of crayons and cartoons, Patrick was intrigued by visions of gritty Marines vanquishing enemies of the United States with firepower and guts.
Throughout his childhood, the desire to be a Marine - tough, elite, noble - never ebbed. But it was at the age of 11, during a visit to Camp LeJeune, N.C., where his big sister was a Marine, that the dream took root.
There, in an adrenaline-charged environment fueled by the crackle of gunfire and the clatter of war machines, he began to feel the swell of pride that often propels young men and women to a life of military service.
He was hooked.
But by the time Patrick was ready to enlist in 2007, even some of his family - with generations of military service to their credit - had grown concerned about the steady stream of casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq and urged him to stay at Central Florida Community College.
"He wanted to (enlist), and he really stuck to his guns," said his aunt, Rosa Ardle of Tampa. "He was smart. He could have done anything else, but he wanted the infantry."
On Tuesday, two months shy of his 22nd birthday, Marine Lance Cpl. Patrick Malone died in Anbar province in Iraq. He was five months into his first deployment.
The family knows just what the rest of Ocala knows about Patrick's death. The U.S. Department of Defense has said only that he was killed in a "non-hostile incident" and that his death is under investigation.
The news was delivered about 1 a.m. Tuesday - there's an eight-hour time difference between Iraq and Ocala - by three Marines in class A uniforms during a birthday party for one of Patrick's grandmothers, 86-year-old Iris Serrano, at the Malone home in Ocala.
The visit took just 10 minutes.
"We literally huddled together and hugged each other because there's not much we could do or say," Ardle said, her voice breaking with emotion.
So while the family waits for answers, all they can do is accept condolences from well-wishers and make plans to bury Patrick.
The outpouring of sympathy has been great, said Patrick's sister, Jennifer Hopper, because Patrick was loved and admired by so many. She echoed the sentiments of friends who described him as outgoing, kind and honest. And there is also that famous biting wit, which some describe as sarcastic but which was never mean-spirited.
Subjects that to other people seemed taboo in polite company were easy fodder for the playful Patrick, for whom nothing was off limits.
"He would talk to people about anything, things that others wouldn't dare talk about," Hopper said with a chuckle.
But he also had a serious side. Patrick was the one in whom people confided because he was wise and honest despite his youth.
"He kept us all together," said Hopper, who herself served in the Marine Corps for four years. "He was the glue."
Thousands of miles away in Iraq, he was constantly online and on the phone with friends and family catching up on the special moments in their lives. He sent his friend, Clare Canon of Dunnellon, three dozen roses on Valentine's Day.
Even on the day he died, Patrick made a flurry of calls to family members to say hello and to apologize for missing his grandmother's birthday party.
And he was a Marine to the core.
"He never wanted to be a hero," Hopper said. "He just wanted to be a part of something bigger than himself. He wanted to help people. He wanted to protect people."
The family will hold a visitation from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday at Hiers Funeral Home on Silver Springs Boulevard in Ocala. The funeral will be at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church.
Patrick is survived by his parents, Neida Lucy Malone and Damian Malone of Ocala; sisters Jennifer Hopper and Andrea Pietronuto, both of New York; and his grandmothers, Iris Serrano of Ocala and Antonia Malone, of Middletown, N.J.