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MILITARY DEATHS

Marine Lance Cpl. Rafael Reynosa, 28, Riverside; Killed by Hostile Fire

June 06, 2004|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

Marine Lance Cpl. Rafael Reynosa somehow knew that his unborn child would be a girl.

"He'd always call and ask me how his baby girl was doing," said Dinora Reynosa, who became his sweetheart -- and later his wife -- after the two met in 1992 while students at Santa Ana's Valley High School.

"I would say, 'Don't say that. What if it's a little boy?' He would say, 'No, I can guarantee you that it's a girl.' He was just so sure."

Last week, Dinora learned that the couple's first child -- due in October -- would indeed fulfill her husband's prediction.

The news came just four days after he was killed May 29 by hostile fire in Iraq's Al Anbar province.

"I know he was happy when they gave me the news," Dinora said after her visit with the doctor. "He's my angel up there now who's looking over me and, eventually, the baby."

Reynosa, 28, was a mortar man assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton.

As of Saturday, at least 813 American servicemen and women had died in Iraq. Of those, 105 had ties to California.

For Reynosa, those ties began at age 13, when he immigrated to Santa Ana with his family from Mexico. A "really sporty guy" with "a good personality" who loved barbecues, Dinora said, he soon caught her eye.

The two dated through high school and beyond, when Rafael spent two years playing soccer at Santa Ana College.

Later, he worked as a warehouse manager for Montgomery Ward. The couple were married Nov. 4, 2000.

Five months later, the warehouse closed and Reynosa faced a decision.

"He wanted to have a better future, to have something stable," his wife said. "He was always interested in the Marines in high school, but was too busy with soccer to join at 18."

Reynosa joined the Marine Corps on April 23, 2001.

He spent a year in Okinawa, Japan. Then, on Feb. 16 -- just two days after learning that Dinora was pregnant -- he left for Iraq.

His wife, who lives in Riverside, said she heard from him at least once a week by telephone and frequently by mail.

"He said he was helping another country, helping the kids in Iraq have an education," Dinora said. "He was a big believer in education, making sure that everyone went to school."

When she asked him tough questions, though, he would deftly turn them away.

"He always told me not to worry -- that everything was calm," Dinora said.

"He told me not to listen to the news because it was exaggerating what was going on. He told me to trust him because he would always tell the truth, not to worry, and to have faith in God."

She last spoke to her husband by telephone two days before his death.

"He said he was just calling for me not to worry and that everything was fine," she said. "He just wanted to call to tell me that he loved me and to take care of the baby."

Dinora said she plans to tell their daughter -- who, in keeping with Rafael's wishes, will be named Kathya -- "exactly what her father was -- a hero. I don't have bad memories, only good ones. And that's what Kathya is going to know; what her father did and that he was always concerned about the future."

Reynosa also is survived by his parents, Esther Suarez and Rafael Reynosa of Riverside; and three siblings: Jonathan Reynosa, 11, and Elizabeth Reynosa, 16, both of Riverside, and Cesar Reynosa, 25, of Garden Grove.

Arrangements for a memorial service have not been finalized, but it will be at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Santa Ana, where the couple were married.

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