In satellite phone conversations from Iraq, Marine Lance Cpl. Kyle D. Crowley of San Ramon, Calif., told his father that he got only three or four hours of sleep a night and one hot meal a day.
The 18-year-old wasn't complaining. It had been his life's dream to serve in the Marine Corps.
On Tuesday, after just seven weeks in Iraq, Crowley was killed during a battle in Al Anbar province. He was among 24 Camp Pendleton Marines killed last week, the majority, like Crowley, from the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.
"I am proud of Kyle," said his father, Mark. "I'm proud of what he stood for. He's in a better place now. There's no more pain, no more fear."
Kyle Crowley was born on May 13, 1985, in Reno. After his parents divorced, he lived with his father in San Ramon for about 13 years.
Crowley and his father shared more than their middle name, Dwayne. Mark taught his only son to shoot pistols and high-powered rifles. They went fishing and deer hunting. They owned two English springer spaniels -- Kyle's dog was Pete and his father's dog was Rose.
Crowley's father served in the Army more than 20 years ago, and his grandfather, Lloyd Speight, was in the Marines during World War II.
While in high school, Crowley volunteered for weekend physical training to prepare for military duty and worked in the local recruiting office. Soon after his high school graduation last June, he joined the Marines. "That was the path that he wanted," his father said. "He wouldn't take no for an answer."
Mark Crowley was proud to see his son in his full dress uniform at his Marine Corps graduation ceremony. "I was very honored to see him become a man, but at the same time I was very scared for him," he said.
In addition to his father, Kyle Crowley is survived by his mother, Chris Smiley of Texas; and a sister, Nicole, 20. Funeral arrangements have not been completed, but the family planned to bury Crowley at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, Calif.