Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Willie P. Celestine Jr. killed 'while conducting combat operations'

A North Carolina-based Marine is the latest military member to be killed in combat in Iraq, the Department of Defense said Friday.

Cpl. Willie P. Celestine Jr., 21, of Lafayette, La., died Thursday during combat in Anbar province. He was assigned to the Camp Lejeune-based Co. A, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 6, 2nd Marine Division, the Marine Corps said in a separate statement.

Celestine was a radio operator and had joined the Marines on Jan. 26, 2005.

Details of his death weren't available.

Celestine, who was married and had a young daughter, graduated from Acadiana High School in Lafayette in 2004. His principal, Janet Hiatt, said Celestine was a "good kid," adding that she was shocked and saddened to hear of his death.

"He was a fine young man, and I was very proud to know he was serving his country," she said Friday. "This is such a terrible loss. I was heartbroken when I heard the news."

Others who knew Celestine expressed similar sentiment.

Richard Dugas knew Celestine for eight years through his time at Acadiana High and as a parishioner at St. Anthony Catholic Church. Dugas said the young father was an active member of the church.

"He was a fun character. He loved to make people laugh, and he was athletic," Dugas said. "I got a call from my son who told me the news of what happened. I couldn't believe it."

Dugas said he has many fond memories of Celestine. "I'll miss that smile of his. He had this devilish little smile," he said. "He was a people person."

From the Fayetteville Observer