04/19/2012: "Flags At Half-Staff Friday"
Gov. Gregoire has directed that flags be lowered to half-staff Friday, April 20th, in memory of U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Ramon T. Kaipat, 22, of Tacoma. Kaipat was killed last week while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan.
While leading a dismounted patrol in Khan Neshin District, Kaipat sustained mortal wounds from an improvised explosive device. He was medically evacuated to Forward Operating Base Payne’s medical treatment facility, where he succumbed to his wounds.
Congress amended the U.S. Flag Code to give governors the authority to lower flags when a state resident in the military is killed in the line of duty. Other government entities, citizens and businesses are encouraged to join in this recognition. Flags should remain at half-staff until close of business Friday.
Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez wrote the following for the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System:
“He came from Saipan in his freshman year of high school, graduated, and joined the Marine Corps to serve his country.”
“He would run through a wall, if that was what it took to accomplish the mission.”
“He would go out on a limb to protect a fellow Marine.”
“He was a Marine you knew you could count on.”
He was firm but fair, and he was the only Marine that can put a smile across the whole platoon’s face.
“He” was Lance Cpl. Ramon T. Kaipat, an infantryman who served with Charlie Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and 22-year-old native of Tacoma, Wash., and these were a few of the words his fellow Marines used to describe his character for those who didn’t know him, during a memorial ceremony here, April 16, 2012.
Kaipat’s fellow Marines shared their personal encounters with the audience during the ceremony, painting a clear picture of an exemplary Marine, caring friend, and righteous brother.
“Kaipat chose to serve the United States in a way that most American’s never consider,” said Lt. Col. George Schreffler, the commanding officer of 1st LAR. ”He chose the path less traveled, and accepted all of the hardships and risks that he encountered along the way.”
He came from Saipan in his freshman year of high school.
Kaipat was born in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. After emigrating from Saipan to the United States and graduating from Mount Tacoma High School in 2008, he immediately enlisted in the Marine Corps. Late that year he graduated from recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, and then attended Infantry Training School in Camp Pendleton, Calif.
In March 2009, Kaipat was ordered to report to 1st LAR, where he was assigned to Charlie Co. He deployed with the battalion on their previous tour to Afghanistan in 2010, and had been operating in Khan Neshin district since October 2011.
“He knew that his service contributed to making the United States and the rest of the world better,” explained Schreffler. “He touched the lives of the Marines in his platoon, and Afghans half a world away from his home.”
He would run through a wall, if that was what it took to accomplish the mission.
One Marine remembers Kaipat as an honorable man, one who inspired both his junior Marines and his senior leaders.
Corporal Shane Wilson, an infantryman with Charlie Co., who went through boot camp, the School of Infantry, and two combat deployments with Kaipat, remembers his fallen brother as a Marine who always led by example.
“When we checked in to 1st LAR together, we both had our fresh high-and-tights, standing there in the position of attention, nervous as can be,” said Wilson. “But Kaipat stood there, firm and strong.”
“He always led from the front, and protected our lives during patrols,” explained Wilson. “Kaipat was the type of man we all strive to become.”
“I can speak so much about my mentor, my example, my brother, my hero and most of all, my friend…it was an honor to have served with him, and to have walked next to a great man,” Wilson said.
He would go out on a limb to protect a fellow Marine.
“I’ve only know Lance Corporal Kaipat for less than a year,” said 1st Lt. Peter Six, Kaipat’s platoon commander with Charlie Co. “But I can tell from his actions what kind of man he was.”
Six recalled his courage during a patrol on New Year’s Eve 2011, when, after another Marine was injured, Kaipat tenaciously posted security on an exposed position, allowing the injured Marine to be treated and evacuated.
“He took his job as a Marine very seriously, and dedicated himself to accomplishing any task he was given,” explained Six. “He served as the point man for over 80 patrols, choosing a safe path and clearing the way and making sure that path is safe for us to take.”
He was a Marine you knew you could count on.
Lance Cpl. Steven Medlock, an infantryman with Charlie Co. who served with Kaipat, recalled simple occasions, when “Ray” would take care of him, regardless of time and place.
“Several times, I came back to the barracks at 4 o’clock on Monday morning, and he would hook me up with a haircut,” said Medlock. “He would sometimes wait for me, coming home late from a party or a date, and ask me, ‘What took you so long, I was worried sick!’”
“It didn’t matter what shape I was in, he was always there to pick me up,” explained Medlock. “He’s still with us, he’s still in our hearts and we need to live on for him.”
He was firm but fair.
Lance Cpl. Peter Kalla, an infantryman with Charlie Co., told the audience that it was an honor being one of Kaipat’s junior Marines. He spoke of stories about the man he remembers as moral and just.
“When I first arrived at 1st LAR, it was on a field day,” recalled Kalla. “I had no idea who was going to be checking our rooms when we were done cleaning. After a while, I heard a knock on the door, and when I opened it, there stood Kaipat, with a pissed off look on his face. He told me ‘I’m here to inspect your room’.”
“At that point, he walked in and quickly found three things that were dirty,” said Kalla. “He then turned to my roommate and myself, and told us that if he came back and found our room dirty again, that we would spend all night cleaning it.”
“I didn’t know who that Marine was at the time, but I did know that I was afraid of him at the time,” explained Kalla. “It wasn’t until a few weeks later, and a few wrestling matches between us that Kaipat and I became close.”
“He always won our matches,” said Kalla. “I told him, ‘I’ll beat you once, if it takes me a thousand tries.’ On one day, I must have tried at least ten times, and he beat me at least ten times.”
“We started doing everything together,” said Kalla. “And during all that time, Kaipat was teaching me, giving me pointers, and still winning our wrestling matches.”
“One of things he taught me, was that anything that sucks, will always end eventually,” remembered Kalla. “It didn’t matter if it was a working party or something as long as a deployment, he knew it would end eventually, and you can carry on with your life.”
Kalla said that whether it was making sure he remembered lessons from a class (while holding him in a head-lock), knocking on the door at 2 A.M. to ask if he wanted a burrito, or making sure he got a haircut on Sundays, Kaipat took care of him like an older brother.
As the company first sergeant called his name for the honorary roll call, Kaipat’s fellow warriors didn’t hear his voice, familiar to many of them for the firmness with which he gave his orders, and for the laughter he shared with them. Instead, they stood in silence as a detail fired a three-volley salute into the air, remembering him for his actions as a leader, a friend, and brother.