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Terror attacks are a driving force to serve country

But dozens of Californians so motivated made the ultimate sacrifice while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

September 12, 2008|Megan Garvey | Times Staff Writer

Morgen Jacobs was a high school senior when terrorists attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.

The young man who loved the beach and mountain biking had been unsure of what to do with his life. Within weeks, he came to his family with an announcement: He was joining the Army. His parents tried, without success, to get him to change his mind. In the spring of 2002, after graduating from Soquel High School in Santa Cruz, he enlisted.

Jacobs, 20, was killed Oct. 7, 2004, when a roadside bomb exploded near his Humvee while he was on patrol near Tikrit, Iraq, north of Baghdad.

Afterward, Todd Jacobs said he consoled his son's recruiter, telling the man: "Morgen chose this path because he was a patriot, and he loved this country to death and he wanted to protect all of us."

Since late 2001, The Times has chronicled the lives of more than 500 Californians killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their stories are collected in the California's War Dead database. Asked why their loved ones enlisted, family members recalled love of country, family tradition, the need to find direction or a lifelong fascination with the military.

For more than three dozen who lost their lives, as it was for Jacobs, the terrorist attacks were a driving force for serving. Here are a few of those stories:

Jeramy A. Ailes followed more than half a dozen of his friends into the military, all spurred by the events of 9/11. He chose the Marines, "the strongest and the best," his father said. Ailes, 22, of Gilroy, was among five Marines killed in an ambush in November 2004 in Fallouja, Iraq, west of Baghdad.

Edwin Roodhouse left a career as a computer networking engineer to join the Army at age 33. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, his family said he was determined to do something for his country after bouncing around in Silicon Valley jobs for a decade.

Three years after he enlisted, Roodhouse, 36, and another soldier were killed Dec. 5, 2004, when a homemade bomb blew up their Humvee in Habbaniya, Iraq, west of Baghdad.

Joseph B. Spence of Scotts Valley had put off his childhood goal of joining the Marines for several years because he was reluctant to leave his family. After the 9/11 attacks, he came to his parents and said, "I can't wait anymore; it's time to go."

Spence, who enlisted with his younger brother, was 24 when the military transport helicopter he was riding in crashed Jan. 26, 2005, near Rutbah, in Iraq, west of Baghdad. Twenty-nine other Marines and a sailor also were killed.

William Dean Richardson of Moreno Valley walked into an Army recruitment station four days after the 9/11 attacks and signed up. He had been working as an electrician until then. After the attacks, he told his brother that he "just wanted to make the world a better place."

Richardson, 23, died April 3, 2005, after he fell into a canal while under attack near Baghdad. He was on his second deployment to Iraq.

Joshua Kynoch enlisted in the Army just days after watching television coverage of the attacks. When he and his friend Ryan Siliznoff signed up, they requested to be sent to the front lines of the war on terror.

Kynoch, 23, of Santa Rosa, was killed Oct. 1, 2005, when his Bradley fighting vehicle struck a roadside bomb near Baiji, Iraq, north of Baghdad. He was on his second tour. Kynoch was survived by his wife and 6-month old daughter.

Lester Baroncini Jr. left his family's 30,000-acre ranch in Bakersfield to join the Army after Sept. 11. "He came to his parents and he told them he really felt called to serve his country," his family priest, Father Craig Harrison, said after Baroncini's death Oct. 15, 2006.

Baroncini was 33. He and another soldier were killed when two land mines exploded near their Humvee in Samarra, Iraq, north of Baghdad.

Angel de Jesus Lucio Ramirez came to Southern California as a child after his father became a U.S. citizen and sent for his family in Saltillo, Mexico. Lucio, 22, of Pacoima, was killed Nov. 11, 2006, when a roadside bomb exploded while he was on a security escort mission in Ramadi, Iraq, west of Baghdad.

"He was motivated to enlist by the events of 9/11," his father, Ignacio Lucio, said after his son's death. "We were concerned because the country was at war. But we supported his decision and are very proud that he served the nation."

Jared Landaker was studying physics and playing basketball at the University of La Verne when terrorists attacked the nation. The attacks led him to enlist in the Marines. Landaker, 25, of Big Bear City, was killed Feb. 7, 2007, along with six other troops when the helicopter they were using to ferry blood supplies was shot down west of Baghdad.

The flight was to have been his last one before heading home, his father said. "He was not only a hero; he was a great son," Joseph Landaker said. "He did more in 25 years than most of us will do in 75 years."

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megan.garvey@latimes.com

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