Gloucester City Man Killed in Iraq

Camden Courier-post – November 17, 2004

Chris and Marc Ryan sat in the back porch of their parents’ Chestnut Street home sipping beer and trading stories.

It was September and Marc – a corporal with the Second Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment, Second Division – had just returned from Iraq.

“You could see he was really affected by what he had seen,” said Chris Ryan, a 26-year-old Gloucester City firefighter. “He said it was really bad over there, you can’t really trust anyone – children, women.”

Marc went back for his third and last Iraq tour and was scheduled to return home in March.

He never made it.

The 25-year-old 1998 Gloucester City High School graduate was killed in an explosion in Ramadi. He was pronounced dead at 4:37 p.m. Iraqi time on Monday. He was the ninth tri-county area resident to perish in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It wasn’t the first time Marc faced enemy fire.

Last month, a Time magazine reporter tagged along with Marc, who was driving an armored Humvee, in a raid of seven mosques in the Iraqi city of Ramadi.

“We’ll probably get hit tonight,” Marc told Time reporter Phil Zabriskie, as he gazed at a picture of his girlfriend, Kathy Cerminara, just before he drove into what turned out to be an ambush.

Marc had met Cerminara, who lives in Horsham, Pa., roughly six months ago at the Adelphia night club in Deptford and they hit it off instantly, said Marc’s sister, 22-year-old Lauren Ryan of Haddon Heights.

In his account of the ambush, published on Oct. 25, Zabriskie said Ryan steered through smoke caused by the nearby remotely detonated explosions amid a shower of AK-47 rounds.

The convoy returned safely to its stronghold, but set out again later that night to find a group of roughly 25 insurgents just south of the ambush site, Zabriskie said.

According to Zabriskie’s account, two 155 mm mortar shells wired with remote triggers detonated only a few feet from the front tires of Ryan’s Humvee, breaking the windshield and nearly piercing the reinforced glass in two places.

Struggling to see, Ryan hit a barrier on the side of the road and the vehicle was left alone, without support from other troops, Zabriskie said in his Time article.

The gunner had to shout directions to Ryan, who found his way back to the road and the safety of their stronghold despite having the windshield covered with oil, according to Zabriskie.

Last Saturday, Marc called the girl in the picture he carried with him and told her he missed her and wanted to hear her voice, his sister said. It was the last time they would speak.

“He was an amazing man,” said Lauren Ryan. “His smile was the kind of smile that would light up a room.”

Wearing her brother’s fatigues and holding hands with her parents – Linda and Thomas Ryan – Lauren told reporters the family had begged Marc not to return to Iraq.

“It’s no use, when he made up his mind, that was it,” she said.

Having joined the Marines months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Ryan was among the first troops sent to Afghanistan.

He was in the Marine Corps playing football on an Australian beach when the two jetliners hit the twin towers. He was immediately called back to his ship and learned of the terrorist attacks, Chris Ryan said.

Marc did two tours in Afghanistan and two in Iraq. He could have returned home after his second Iraq tour, but instead, he volunteered for a third.

“We asked him `Why did you do it?’ and he said `My brothers are dying out there, I gotta do something,’ ” Chris Ryan said. “He would do anything for anybody.”

“He fought for his country, he fought a hard fight, and he died doing what he loved,” Lauren Ryan said. “Marc, I love you and I will miss you forever and I know you’re up there right now saying, `Stop crying.’ “

Family members said Marc was meant to be a Marine like his father and grandfather before him.

“It was inevitable for one of us to go and do that,” Chris Ryan said. “We had two choices: I was either going in the Marine Corps or I was going to be a fireman. I took this route and he took that.”

Marc joined the Marines after two years at Wesley College in Dover, Del., where he majored in education. He planned to become a policeman after returning from Iraq.

“He was a young man who exemplified the best in the Marine Corps,” said Tom McGinnis, Marc’s seventh- and eighth-grade teacher. “At the high school today, there were a lot of teary eyes.”

“He had unbelievable dedication,” said Leon Harris, his football coach at Gloucester High School. “He was literally the first guy to arrive and the last to leave. He was a great player and a tremendous leader. Everybody around this program looked up to him.”

As a linebacker, Marc was well known in the community.

“I go to calls and people ask me `How’s your brother?’ ” Chris Ryan said.

Even after he graduated, Marc still attended the high school football games.

During his last visit, he talked to Harris about being a Marine. “I feel strongly that I am doing what I was trained to do,” Marc said then.

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