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Marine Corps Cpl. Mick Bekowsky, 21, Concord; Killed in Bombing

September 12, 2004|Hector Becerra | Times Staff Writer

When one of his Marine Corps buddies half-jokingly complained about spending yet another birthday in a far-off land, Mick Bekowsky took an MRE meal, pulled out a pound cake, found a candle and fashioned his friend a birthday cake.

The setting was Kuwait in 2003, near the eve of the invasion of Iraq.

"Mick really was everyone's best friend," said Mike Baity, the former Marine who celebrated his 22nd birthday in the desert on the brink of war. "One thing about Mick, he was never worried for himself. He was always worried about everyone else."

Bekowsky came home to Concord, Calif., in July 2003 and Baity helped his friend retire the American and Marine flags that Bekowsky's family had flown during his tour of duty. With his father, Bekowsky raised two new flags, which were larger and less faded.

Soon after, Bekowsky returned to Iraq for his second tour of duty. Baity said he and his friend had long before "come to the conclusion that freedom is not something unique to America, and something everyone is entitled to."

Bekowsky, a 21-year-old corporal, was among seven Marines killed Monday when a bomb-laden vehicle was detonated near their convoy outside Fallouja. All but one of the Marines were members of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton.

Bekowsky was an outdoorsman who loved to hunt and fish, said his father, Brian.

Before his death, Bekowsky had talked about coming home and chartering a fishing boat at Lake Tahoe so the entire family could get together. "Mick was very outgoing, very active," his father said. "He was somewhat adventurous."

Bekowsky graduated from Concord High School in 2001, although his mind wasn't always on school, his father said.

"He was a good student when he wanted to be," he said. "Once he discovered girls, he had other things on his mind to pursue. We really had to work with him a lot to get him through high school."

Bekowsky's grandfather, Fred Dull, had served 30 years in the Navy, inspiring in Bekowsky an early interest in the military.

His parents said the Marine Corps instilled in him a sense of discipline that the energetic young man had not had before.

During his first tour of duty, Bekowsky related stories of being among the first American servicemen to cross into Iraq in 2003. His battalion hoisted an American flag at the port of Umm al Qasr, only to be ordered to bring it down shortly after.

Bekowsky told his family the Iraqis gave the Marines a warm reception. "One woman gave him a scarf from her head she no longer had to wear," his father said. "The children welcomed them and they came out and greeted them with open arms. He really believed, 'They need us.' "

When Bekowsky returned to Iraq for his second tour, friends and relatives said, he learned that the atmosphere had gone from welcoming to hostile.

"He knew when he was going back the second time that things were different," his father said. "A lot of things had taken place that changed the climate."

But he was undeterred.

"He talked about the possibility of reenlisting," his father said. "He talked about becoming an officer, which he hadn't talked about before."

In addition to his father, Bekowsky is survived by his mother, Joan; a sister, Haley, 12; his maternal grandparents, Adonna and Fred Dull; and his paternal grandmother, Cecile Bekowsky.

Bekowsky will be buried with full military honors at Memory Gardens Cemetery in Concord at a date yet to be determined.

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