Little brother, big loss: Marine died in Iraq while brother pressed on in recruit training
By Lance Cpl. Dorian Gardner
| | March 11, 2005
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
Pfc. Noah Ramos was smack-dab in the middle of boot camp when they told him his younger brother died in a crash. Lance Cpl. Hector Ramos was one of 31 service members killed in a helicopter crash Jan. 26 in Iraq. Noah, a 21-year-old recruit in his second phase of training with Company K, was laying in a prone firing position on the rifle range waiting to practice when a Marine squawked his name over a loud speaker and ordered him off the firing line. As ordered, Noah stood aside and waited. His senior drill instructor walked him back to the barracks. "On the way to the (senior's office) I was getting feelings that something was wrong with my family," said Noah. After a long wait in the barracks, the drill instructor opened the door and told Noah to come inside the office. That's when Noah saw the chaplain and the company commander, and the chaplain broke the news. "All I could do was just cry," said Noah. "I was thinking about what happened, how did he die ... so many questions." After the sad news, Noah's drill instructor gave him time alone."All those things you hear about soldiers, you never really think about until it happens to somebody you know," said Noah. "You just wish it never happened."With his brother being a part of an infantry unit, Noah knew Hector placed himself in harm's way, but losing him was unexpected, according to Noah. Before the Marine Corps, the brothers grew up in Aurora, Ill., a small town outside Chicago. They lived with both parents and an 11-year-old brother. Between the two, it was always more reasonable to believe that Noah would join the military and Hector would go to college. "(Hector) always talked about art school, but when 9/11 came, he got angry. (He) went and saw the recruiters the same day," said Noah. In his teens, Noah had a growing interest in the military - specifically the Army because interaction with soldiers in his area and around the high school was common. "I was eating and sleeping Army."Like many children who are too young to be soldiers, Noah and his brothers, along with neighborhood friends, used to play war games in the back yard. In school, Noah grew more interested in the Army while Hector got better at his artwork. A year older than Hector, Noah graduated high school and decided to pursue his college education. Hector on the other hand, decided that he had seen enough books, and he wanted to try something that was a little bit more hands-on.Shortly after Noah finished college, his brother graduated boot camp.Noah said Hector ended up recruiting him into the Marine Corps. When Noah would talk about joining the National Guard, Hector would ask him why.By the time Noah left for boot camp, Hector was in Iraq with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. According to Department of Defense reports, Hector and 29 other Marines, along with a Navy corpsman, were on a mission in support of the Jan. 31 Iraq elections. Sandstorms throughout Iraq had caused many helicopter flight systems to fail. The CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter carrying Hector went down Jan. 26, about 220 miles west of Baghdad. Noah said Hector would write him letters daily. The last letter Noah received was in the middle of February. The postmark was dated Jan. 21, just days before the crash. Noah said Hector wrote the letter when he was leaving Fallujah. "I still read them," said Noah. "He never wrote about serious stuff. He (wrote) about things that he (wanted) us to do when he (got) back."It was never the letters or talking about his brother that made Noah long to see Hector again. It was hearing "Taps" play for fallen warriors every night while he lay in bed that made Noah think about Hector the most. Noah found a new way to view the tragedy of his brother's death: "He had accomplished more at the age of 20 than most people. I was proud. I didn't want to lose a brother, but I know that he was (proud) the way he went."After attending Hector's funeral, Noah said he had to finish training. Some recruits, as well as drill instructors, noticed a change in Noah."He was quieter, but he stepped it up with his actions... physically," said Staff Sgt. Walter F. Layton, Platoon 3053 senior drill instructor, Company K.Noah also said he aspires to be like Hector: "It motivated me knowing that my brother died serving his country and not in the streets." Noah, who graduates recruit training today and joins a vast band of brothers, said Hector was his guide to becoming a Marine, and he will serve proudly.