Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lance Cpl. Ralph J. Fabbri, Marine Combat Photographer, KIA

by Gunnery Sgt. William Price

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Marines and sailors from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, paused to honor Lance Cpl. Ralph J. Fabbri during a memorial ceremony held at Camp Leatherneck, Oct. 18. Fabbri, 20, was killed in action, Sept. 28, while on patrol in the Sangin District.

The Altoona, Pa., native was a 1st Marine Division (Forward) combat cameraman attached with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines.

“Every one of us has tons of stories and memories of Ralph that are branded on our hearts forever because he touched all of us in his own personal way,” said Cpl. Logan Riddle, fellow 1st MarDiv(Fwd) combat cameraman and best friend. “Ralph was the best kind of Marine there is, but he was even better at being a friend.”

Hundreds of fellow service members and friends, including Brig. Gen. Joseph Osterman, 1st MarDiv(Fwd) commanding general, and Col. Paul Kennedy, RCT-2 commanding officer, gathered at the 1st Marine Division Memorial monument to pay their final respects to the young warrior.

A lover of the arts and hunting, Ralph must have felt right at home, when he decided to join the Marines, and its 4600 field – Combat Photography.

Fabbri earned the title of Marine after graduating boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., in November 2008. After completing Marine Combat Training at Camp Geiger, N.C., Fabbri attended the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Md., earning his military operational skill as a combat cameraman. Fabbri had hardly checked into the Blue Diamond of 1st MarDiv when he earned another title, his nickname “Snuggles.”

“When Lance Corporal McKenzie and I picked up Fabbri at the airport in San Diego,” Riddle explained. “As soon as we saw him, he looked like the bear from the Snuggles’ laundry commercials, so we started calling him ‘Snuggles.’”

As quickly as Fabbri earned his nickname, with those he just met, it was his endearing qualities, that made all who knew the young Marine, love to be around him.

Fabbri was first assigned to Headquarters & Service Company, 3/7, in Feb. 2010. This was his first deployment. Later he would attach with India Company. His company commander, Capt. Patrick McKinley recalled interacting with Fabbri and some local children just hours before the unit came under attack.

“We were held up in a compound with a dozen little Afghan boys and girls. I remember Ralph interacting with the kids and taking photos of the Marines and children playing. It was a moment that reminded us all why we were here and the future we will secure for those children,” McKinley said in his eulogy. “What a great young man Ralph was! With his passing, we lost more than just a Marine. The world lost a potential teacher, husband and father.”

Fabbri was on a patrol on the afternoon of Sept. 28. The company was conducting clearing operations southwest of the Sangin Bazaar. He went on an ambush patrol to capture images of a Marine squad covering the advance of another platoon as they seized their objective. While covering his portion of the line, Fabbri was hit by enemy sniper fire. Despite the best efforts of the Navy corpsmen, the Marines around him and Fabbri himself, he would succumb to the wound in transit.

“The day before we went on that ‘Op,’ we were watching The Sandlot, one of our favorite movies. One quote from the movie stuck out to him for some odd reason,” said Lance Cpl. Armondo Mendoza, a 1st MarDiv(Fwd) combat cameraman, also attached with 3/7. “He repeated it after it was said, ‘There are heroes and there are legends. Heroes get remembered but legends never die.’”

Fabbri wasn’t just a hero, but a legend. He will live forever through the photos he loved taking so much. I just want to tell him, ‘I am going to miss you buddy, and keep an eye out for all of us, like I know you will. I love you dude, you are missed!’”

Fabbri was only the third combat cameraman killed in action since Vietnam when Cpl. William Perkins was killed in 1967, and Cpl. William Salazar, was killed by a suicide bomber on Oct. 15, 2004, near the Syrian border in western Iraq.

News of his passing quickly spread through the smaller community of Marine Corps combat photographers, and for one veteran cameraman of Tarawa and Iwo Jima, it hit hard.

“The notice of Lance Corporal Ralph Fabbri's death in combat is a severe blow to me as I feel like I have lost a close friend or brother! As an original member of the Marine Corps Photographic Services, which established the roles and missions of Marine photographers, I understand that his death was in fulfillment of that responsibility. Few realize that to accomplish or obtain photography in close combat conditions the photographer has a target on his back,” said Maj. Norman Hatch(Ret.), a World War II veteran and a pioneer of combat photography and videography, whose footage of Tarawa earned the Marine Corps an Academy Award. “It is one of the most dangerous jobs in the military because he or she can rarely crouch down or lay flat on the ground to take a photo. They must walk through the action to get the photography that is essential to field commanders and higher ups as well as keeping the public informed. No higher duty exists! Lance Corporal Ralph Fabbri lived up to that tradition and should be so honored amongst his friends, the Corps and his family. To his family I offer my sincerest condolences for their loss!”

The short, quiet ceremony was marked by Bible verses and prayers honoring Fabbri. Final Roll was called three times for Lance Cpl. Ralph J. Fabbri. His name was called by India Company’s first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Raymond Clark, only to be met with silence.

The quiet was broken when three volleys of a 7-man rifle team fired in perfect unison, a 21-gun salute in honor of Fabbri. Taps ensued in a final farewell.

Fabbri’s personal awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service medal, Global War on Terrorism Service medal, Afghan Campaign medal, and NATO medal.

“It did not matter where we were, or what we were doing. He was right there in the middle of it snapping away,” said Cpl. Jonathon Davis, a fellow attachment with 3/7, from 4th Combat Engineer Battalion. “I am proud to have known him, and honored to have served with him. Rest in peace, brother, I know you are in a better place.”

Fabbri is survived by his parents, Timothy and Deborah, and his brother, Timothy Jr.

No comments:

Post a Comment