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Marine Corps Pfc. Fernando Hannon, 19, Wildomar; Killed in Explosion

August 22, 2004|Zeke Minaya | Times Staff Writer

A troubling dream awoke Hilaria Hannon one night recently and sent her scurrying to put a dollar in her purse.

In the dream, she was a cook in a Mexican restaurant, but instead of cooking, she stood frozen, her face twisted with sadness.

She interpreted the dream as a bad sign and put the dollar in her purse, planning to give it away to the first needy person she met the next morning to ward away the ill omen.

But she still has that dollar.

"It was a premonition," said her husband, Spurgeon Hannon.

On Aug. 15, the day after her dream, the Hannons were told that their first son, Marine Corps Pfc. Fernando B. Hannon, 19, had been killed in an explosion in Iraq's Al Anbar province.

Hannon was a rifleman two months into his first stint in Iraq, assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton.

Services are pending.

Sitting in their small, humble home in Mojave, Calif., it's hard for the Hannon family to talk about Fern, as they called him, without smiling or laughing, even in their grief.

"He just glowed," said his sister Sonya.

Even as a broad-shouldered man, standing 6 feet 3, Hannon could still fold himself into the arms of his much shorter mother.

She remembered how he would rest his head on her shoulder and promise that he would see to it that, one day, she would not have to work.

Growing up with three older sisters and a younger brother made him a compassionate and warm person, who rarely raised his voice and was generous with his affection, his family said.

His sisters also passed down a love of baking from scratch and watching soap operas, his sister Alicia Tovar said.

During his calls home from Iraq, Hannon would needle his sister for updates of "The Young and the Restless," but he would whisper so the soldiers waiting behind him for the telephone could not hear, Sonya Hannon said.

Hannon's fiance, Ruth Ponce, 21, remembered him as an unassuming young man who wooed her without knowing it.

They met during their senior year at John Marshall High School in Los Angeles. The two were just friends -- Ponce had a boyfriend -- when she asked Hannon, who did not have a date for the prom, what he would do if he had one.

Hannon, with the sincerity of someone with nothing to gain, said he would make a corsage by hand, take his date for a walk on the beach and tell her she was beautiful.

Ponce left the conversation impressed, and several weeks later returned, unattached, and asked him to the prom.

"He would laugh with his whole spirit," she said. "I'm just glad we found each other."

Spurgeon Hannon, as lean as his son and as handsome, with specks of gray dotting his closed-cropped hair, said that by joining the Marines, Hannon "was buying time" until he could decide what to do with his life.

Sonya Hannon, squeezed into a threadbare couch with the rest of her close-knit family, had a different explanation of why her brother joined last year while the family was living in nearby Wildomar.

She leaned toward her father, a Vietnam veteran, and said, "He joined because of you, Dad."

Her brother may not have known what he wanted to do, she said, but he knew who he wanted to be like: He became a solider to follow in his father's footsteps.

"Really?" Spurgeon Hannon said, surprised before falling silent.

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