Anthony C Melia
Thousand Oaks, California
January 27, 2007
Killed while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq.
|20-year-old from Thousand Oaks killed in Iraq
By Nancy Needham firstname.lastname@example.org
Anthony C. Melia
When five Marines in dress blues appeared on their doorstep in Thousand Oaks at 8 p.m. Fri., Jan. 26, Vicki and Mike Melia knew their son Lance Cpl. Anthony C. Melia had been killed in Iraq.
"I watched my wife die inside as she made a sound like I've never heard coming from somebody before," Mike Melia said. "When the doorbell rang and she saw the Marines standing there, her heart, soul and spirit disappeared. She went so far down so quickly. Our life got changed."
As soon as she saw the uniformed Marines on her porch, Vicki Melia collapsed on the entryway floor.
On Monday, she spoke of the moment she realized her 20-year-old-son was killed.
"I knew right away," she said. "He was the light of my life."
His father said Melia had been killed by a random bullet while searching on foot for armed insurgents in Al Anbar province. He was assigned to Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
To his family, Melia was a man of honor and dedication, fighting in a war he believed in, but on Monday afternoon the family clung together and wept as they recalled his childhood and remembered the boy who grew up in Thousand Oaks.
"He loved to watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Power Rangers," recalled his Aunt Marcy Douglas of Reno, Nev. "He liked lots of action. He also loved riding a dirt bike."
"He never hesitated to hug and kiss his parents in public and was always thoughtful of others," his mother said. "He was the captain of his football team at Thousand Oaks High School."
He had also played Titan Football, was a good friend, would open doors for others, could be trusted and loved to eat his mother's homemade teriyaki barbecue beef jerky, she said. He had lots of friends and was close to his parents; his sister, Nicole, 22; and his younger brother, Daniel, 17.
Melia's girlfriend, Jamie Chunko, 18, was hoping to marry him as soon as he returned home. His stay in Iraq, which had been scheduled to end this month, was extended to April, his mother said.
Even though he was fighting a war, she said, he made sure his 3-year-old nephew, Nicholas, whom he adored, got a Spider-Man blanket from him for Christmas.
"When he wasn't fighting, he found a computer and ordered that for Nicholas," said Vicki Melia, her eyes filled with tears.
Melia was determined to follow his heart. He had wanted to join the Marines since he was 10, so he could be "the best of the best." He'd begged his parents to sign the paperwork required to enlist at age 17, but his mother told him he had to wait until he was 18, old enough to take on that responsibility himself.
As the leader of four men in a special operations fire squad, Melia had been asked by his mother "to not be first in battle," she said. But he would not promise her that. He promised her the opposite. He was a born leader who told her he would always be the one leading, I lead by example, she said.
Melia's group, usually on foot, would go door-to-door or wherever necessary to find and clear out insurgents, his father said. On the day he was killed, he was on foot patrol in Al Anbar when his group came across a rocket launcher beside an abandoned vehicle.
The Americans had apparently interrupted something possibly deadly, so some of the Marines stayed to secure the premises around the vehicle. Melia and other Marines went to search for the insurgents involved.
"Anthony was walking in the field looking around when a random bullet hit him in his temple and ended his life," his tearful father said.
His father recalled the many phone calls he and his wife received from their son in Iraq.
"No matter how tired he was, when he would come in from the field, the first thing he would do before he'd go to sleep, he would call his mother and tell her he was all right," said Mike Melia. "She adored him. They had a special bond."
"When he talked to me, he would tell me how horrible war is and how cruel the people he was fighting are," his father said. "He told me CNN refused to interview him because he believed in what he was doing and they only wanted to talk to people who didn't."
Mike Melia was also saddened at the many terrible scenes his young son had to witness in defending his country, he said.
"War is not pretty, but I believe the majority of Americans want to get the job done and then bring them home," Melia said.
In the room where he sat, there were still boxes of boots Vicki Melia had collected to send to her son and his friends in Iraq. She'd also organized others to collect a small mountain of socks to send to them after Anthony told her he was getting blisters from not having any socks to wear. His aunt said Anthony always appreciated how quickly his mother would respond with abundance whenever he mentioned needing something.
The community has closed ranks around the family, trying to help meet the Melias' needs. People have anonymously decorated the Melias' front yard on Roundup Circle with flags, candles and balloons.
Councilmember Jacqui Irwin, Anthony's coaches and others who knew him have offered support, his mother said. "I've heard they are going to retire his No. 6."
"It means a lot to us that no matter how some might feel about parts of the war, I'm glad people are rallying around us and showing support for our troops who are doing what they believe in," Vicki Melia said.
Processional, service will be Monday
A processional will begin at the family home of Lance Cpl. Anthony C. Melia in Wildwood at 9 a.m. Mon., Feb. 5. At press time the route was expected to be east on Avenida de Los Arboles, right at Moorpark Road (south), and left (east) on Thousand Oaks Boulevard. Go to www.toacorn.com for an update because details of the route were still tentative Wednesday.
Those who would like to observe the processional are asked to stand on one of the streets at 9 a.m. and wait. Family members and friends will be decorating the route with flags and ribbons over the weekend. The family asks those who would like to honor Melia to decorate their own yards with flags and ribbons.
The public is invited to attend the memorial service at 10 a.m. Monday at Calvary Community Church, 5495 Via Rocas in Westlake Village.
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