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Obituaries | MILITARY DEATHS

Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Dang, 20; Attacked on Patrol

March 28, 2004|Hector Becerra | Times Staff Writer

Andrew Dang was undersized for a defensive lineman, but his grit and determination helped his high school football team to a 9-1-1 record.

As a wrestler at Aragon High School in San Mateo, Calif., he often grappled with challengers 15 to 20 pounds heavier and took second place in the league competition.

On Tuesday, Aragon students walking into the boys' locker room found his white No. 46 jersey hanging from a wall with a note that read, "Andrew Dang, Varsity football 2000-2001. KIA."

Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Dang, 20, of Foster City, was killed March 21 when his unit was attacked with grenades and gunfire while on patrol near Ramadi in western Iraq.

An average student during his first two years of high school, he transformed himself by his junior year into an Advanced Placement student who helped start the school's robotic team and wrote for the campus newspaper.

"As a freshman and a sophomore, he was a pretty typical student. He wasn't terribly focused," said physics teacher Bill Faustine.

"Then he started doing things that made you go, 'Whoa!' We started seeing he had a wonderful aptitude in math. He could write well."

Dang excelled in robotics. "He was a mechanical genius," said Faustine, the robotics team mentor. "He could put things together with blinding speed."

Led by what Faustine called "Andrew's crazy skills," the robotics team finished in fifth place out of 55 West Coast schools in its first year.

Dang graduated from Aragon High with a 3.7 grade point average and planned to go to college.

Faustine said Dang knew "college opportunities were going to be difficult to achieve," so he joined the military to help him pay for his education.

"He wanted to stop being a burden on the family structure," Faustine said.

"He didn't want his mom to worry so much. But clearly he was also into what he was doing. He was going to enjoy it."

Dang joined the Marines last April, about a month after the war in Iraq began.

He trained at Camp Pendleton and was assigned to the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, 1st Expeditionary Force.

"What was best about Andrew was that, if he got his hands on something, he followed through to the end," said his father, Dung Dang, 44, a software consultant in Hayward, Calif.

"He was very strong, very determined ... that's the thing that made him successful."

The elder Dang said that, after fleeing himself from communist Vietnam two decades ago, he could understand why his son had joined the military.

"Coming here from Vietnam, I felt he was protecting the freedom I had gained," his father said. "I'm very proud of what he did."

In addition to his father, Dang is survived by his mother, Antoinette Medina of Foster City; and two younger brothers, Anthony and Anderson.

Dang will be buried with full military honors Monday at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, Calif.

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