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Marine Pfc. Geoffrey Perez, 24, Los Angeles; Killed in Explosion

August 29, 2004|Patricia Ward Biederman | Times Staff Writer

Marcelo Perez remembers how proud his son, Geoffrey, was to have been born in Los Angeles, especially after he saw the contrasts between life here and in his father's native Guatemala.

Like other American youngsters, Geoffrey Perez "had a lot of dreams," his father recalled.

The 24-year-old Marine private first class died Aug. 15 of injuries suffered in action in Iraq's Al Anbar province. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton.

"The only thing they told us is there was an explosion," said his sister, Lidia Perez, 22.

Blanca Riaheta de Perez remembers her son as the happiest member of the family, one whose aspirations included a Hollywood career. "He wanted to make movies and be like Jean-Claude Van Damme," she said.

Another of his dreams was becoming an American soldier. Even as a child, he talked about it, his family said.

"My older brother [Rodolfo Perez] started it," Lidia Perez said. "He was going to join after he graduated from high school. Unfortunately, he was killed a month before he graduated."

Rodolfo Perez was shot to death by an alleged gang member in 1997.

A graduate of Foshay Learning Center, Geoffrey Perez loved the idea of being a Marine, Lidia Perez said. "He was so proud of the military. He was always singing the Marine Corps hymn."

Her brother also was a "party person," the kind of guy who could walk into a quiet room and instantly make it fun, she said. As for girlfriends, there were many, she said, adding, "He left a lot of broken hearts."

In June, before he went to Iraq, Lidia Perez came to Los Angeles from Bremerton, Wash., where she works on the engines of the Navy combat support ship Bridge.

A veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Lidia Perez spent three intense days with her brother. She had hoped he would find something safer to do in the Marines than combat.

And she shared what she had learned about war. "It's very different over there," she warned. "We don't know the land and the culture. Be careful. Keep your eyes open and watch your back.

"I told him I hadn't seen the worst of it. He was going to see that. I just pray you're OK over there," she told him, adding, "I'll see you when you get back."

"I'll be back," he promised.

"But he's not," Lidia Perez said, almost in a whisper.

In addition to his parents and sister Lidia, Geoffrey Perez is survived by a 19-month-old son, Jonathan Jesus Perez; and two other sisters, Alba and Cintya. Mass was to have been said Saturday at St. Vincent Catholic Church in Los Angeles.

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