Ramona M Valdez
Bronx, New York
June 23, 2005
Killed while traveling in a convoy that was attacked by a suicide, vehicle-borne, improvised explosive device in Fallujah, Iraq.
|BY MAKI BECKER
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
She wanted to serve her country and make her immigrant mom proud.
In the end, Cpl. Ramona Valdez did so much more - before making the ultimate sacrifice.
Valdez, a Bronx native, was one of six U.S. military personnel - four of them women - killed in Iraq when a suicide bomber struck their convoy near Fallujah last Thursday.
All her life, Valdez accomplished things ahead of her time. She graduated from a Bronx high school at 15. She joined the U.S. Marine Corps when she was 17 - her mom co-signing the papers because she was too young to commit herself.
She married at 18, finding love in a fellow Marine, Cpl. Armando Guzman.
And when she died, she was only three days from her 21st birthday.
The Marines initially had trouble finding Valdez's family, which moved from the Bronx to Reading, Pa., in March.
"Our [former] neighbors called and they said, 'There are some Marines looking for you,'" said her heartbroken sister, Fiorela Valdez.
The uniformed officers arrived at the family's new home Friday morning to report that Valdez had been involved in an incident and that her status was unknown, the sister said.
"As soon as my mother saw them, she just collapsed," Fiorela Valdez said.
Two days later, the Marines returned to deliver the terrible news that Ramona Valdez was dead.
In her exemplary life, Ramona Valdez did many things to make her family proud.
Her mother, Elida Nuñez, had raised her daughters on her own after moving to New York from the Dominican Republic.
To help her mom, who worked as a home attendant, Ramona Valdez worked extraordinarily hard to finish school early - supplementing her mom's pay with part-time jobs. Her first job was selling concessions at the Statue of Liberty at age 14.
"She was always a hardworking girl," her sister said.
Valdez graduated from Jane Addams High School, a vocational school, just before turning 16, then went to community college for two semesters.
Then she and her best friend, Estee Franco, decided to join the Marines, enlisting at the Fordham Road recruiting station.
"She wanted a better life and she was a very patriotic person," her recruiter, Staff Sgt. Marcos Rodriguez, recalled.
Ramona Valdez, he recalled, "was a very inspiring young lady."
In preparing for boot camp at Parris Island in May 2002, Ramona Valdez showed up almost every day for workouts and helped out often at the recruiting station.
After making it through the grueling, 70-day training program, she quickly rose through the ranks and was recently promoted to corporal.
"I talked to her prior to her leaving [for Iraq]," Rodriguez said. "She was excited about going overseas. She really wanted to go."
Ramona Valdez, a communications specialist assigned to the Headquarters Battalion of the 2nd Marine Division, was deployed to Iraq in February. She worked with Iraqi forces, training them to stamp out the insurgency.
Once her enlistment was up next year, Ramona Valdez planned to move to Pennsylvania to be with her family, where she had hoped to work for the state highway patrol and enroll at a four-year college. "We had just gone to mail a box of candies and her birthday card and to send her SAT books," her sister told the Daily News. "I'm really, really, really proud of her."
Ramona Valdez's mother recalled yesterday her daughter's touching devotion to her family. "She always used to tell me she was really proud of me," Nuñez said in Spanish, as her daughter translated. "I would say, 'No, I'm really proud of you.'"
Ramona Valdez's husband, who has served two tours in Iraq, was understandably crushed by the loss of his wife. "He's really, really sad," Fiorela Valdez said. "He's just saying he's going to go back to Iraq. For him to be okay with his conscience, he has to go back to Iraq. They took his wife away from him."
Yesterday, the family began the sad task of making funeral arrangements as relatives in the Dominican Republic prayed for her at special church services.
Just before leaving for Iraq, Fiorela and Ramona Valdez drove down from New York to Camp Lejeune, N.C., together. "That was a really sad day," Fiorela Valdez recounted. "We just looked at each other. We just said, 'Everything's going to be okay. I'll see you soon.'"
Originally published on June 29, 2005
|From Reading Eagle readingeagle.com 06/29/05
Reading woman's daughter dies in Iraq
By Adam Wilson
(Originally published June 29, 2005.)
Four months ago, Marine Cpl. Ramona M. Valdez told her mother that if the family did not leave New York City she would sign up for four more years in the military.
Valdez, 20, wanted the family to leave the noise and crime of the Bronx and move somewhere quieter.
She knew her mother hated the fact she was at war in Iraq, where she had been stationed since January 2003.
Ramona’s family kept its part of her bargain and moved to Reading in April to start a new life. She never got the chance to keep hers.
Ramona, a communications specialist, was killed Thursday by a suicide car bomber in Fallujah.
“I told her, ‘I don’t want you to die. I’ll move,’ ” her mother, Elida Nuñez, said Tuesday in her Muhlenberg Street home.
Nuñez said she is comforted in knowing she followed her daughter’s wishes.
But although she lives with her youngest daughter, Fiorela Valdez, 19, and Fiorela’s 2-year old twin sons, Justin and Joshua, the small row home seems empty in spirit.
“I’ll never see her again,” Nuñez cried as she stared at a table adorned with a Bible, flowers and pictures of her daughter.
Ramona was supposed to come home in May. She wanted to become a policewoman.
Ramona died when a suicide bomber slammed into a convoy. The attack also killed another Marine and injured 13.
She was the 36th female member of the American military to die since the invasion in March 2003 to topple former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. At least 1,730 American troops have died in the war, according to an Associated Press count.
Joining the military wasn’t a lifelong dream for Ramona, but she wanted to do something to make her mother proud and saw enlisting as a way to do that, Fiorela said.
“She always said, ‘My mother worked so hard for us. I have to repay her,’ ” she said.
The last phone call from Ramona came the day before her death. It was her usual call to see how everyone was doing and lasted about 30 minutes, Fiorela said.
On the morning of the attack, the family had shipped a package containing candy, a birthday card — Ramona would have been 21 four days later — and an SAT book that she had said she wanted to study.
The next day, the family’s former neighbor in the Bronx called to tell them four Marine sergeants were outside their old home, asking for directions. Fiorela feared the worst.
“I thought about it,” Fiorela said. “But I kept saying to myself, ‘No, it can’t be that. Not that.’ ”
The following day Marines turned up again, this time at the family’s Reading home. Nuñez collapsed on the floor, screaming, and never spoke to them, Fiorela said.
Nuñez still struggles to talk about Ramona, often screaming, “Please just call me, let me know you are alive,” Fiorela said.
“She is desperate — this isn’t like a little birdie that died and we can replace it,” Fiorela said. “Ramona is irreplaceable.”
Fiorela described her sister as happy, caring and always smiling.
“She was always positive, always trying to keep Mom motivated,” Fiorela said. “It was always, ‘Yeah, Mami, I’m going to come home, we’re going to be together.’ ”
Instead, Fiorela said, the family is devastated and bitter that a loved one has died in what they see as an increasingly senseless war. For that, they blame President Bush.
“Why doesn’t he send his daughters over there?” she said. “If he had a family member there, he’d end the war right now.
“He doesn’t know the pain we are going through. He wouldn’t want to go through what we are going through and what many other families are going through.”
Cpl Ramona Valdez Street Co-Naming Ceremony | Saturday, 26. August 2017
Looking for Marines (NY city region) to attend this ceremony as we honor our fallen sister. The city of Bronx, NY and Cpl Valdez's family and friends would be pleased to have us attend. I hope to see you there. Semper Fi (The media will be present)
This note is from her best friend Estee Marie:
As some of you may know, Corporal Ramona "Madelyn" Valdez was killed in Iraq on 23 June 2005 by a ******* bomber. After her death, the Valdez Training Facility was named after her in Camp Lejeune. Next month, the street were our Recruiting Station was will be renamed after her. I know a lot of people have been asking for details.
This is what we have so far: 26 August 2017 at 1300 at 151E Fordham Road, Bronx, NY.
Her sister and I are coordinating some of the details since the Borough just put that responsibility on her. The Marine Corps had no visibility on this, so our recruiter is coordinating with 1st Recruiting District to get military presence out there and have a proper ceremony for her. Her mom would like this to be high visibility, as it should be! It's not every day that a female Marine gets something named after her!
What I need from you: SPREAD THE WORD!!!! Madelyn was a beautiful soul that touched so many people. Her smile would light up a room and her silly jokes could make anybody's day better. If you are in New York we invite you to come out! It would mean the world to her mom and sisters to have the support of the Marine Community.
If you have any questions or have any suggestions, feel free to send them my way!
We are mustering at the recruiting station. The ceremony will take place at 1300 at E. Fordham Road and the Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY (near the USMC RS at 151 E. Fordham Rd.)
Click To Return To Main Page
Don't Let The Memory Of Them Drift Away
Copyright 2003-2015 Q Madp PO Box 86888 Portland OR 97286-0888 www.OurWarHeroes.org