ELK GROVE, IL, USA U.S. Marines CPL, HQ BN, (3D BN, 8TH MAR, RCT-1, 1ST MAR DIV), 2D MAR DIV, CAMP LEJEUNE, NC NASSIR WA AL SALEM, IRAQ
A Marine killed in hostile action in Iraq was on his third tour of duty there, and while proud of his service, was ready to come home, a family friend said Tuesday.
Corporal John T. Olson, 21, was killed Monday in hostile action in Iraq’s Anbar province, the U.S. Defense Department said Tuesday. He was assigned to Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Family friend Marla White described Olson, a graduate of Elk Grove Village High School, as an engaging man who was close to his father, mother and 16-year-old sister.
“He wasn’t a big guy, but he was a tough little cookie,” she said. “And he had the most beautiful smile. He really lit up a room.”
White, who lives across the street in this Chicago suburb from Olson’s parents, John and Diana Olson, said the family was deeply distraught and asked her to speak on their behalf. The family received word about Olson’s death Monday when three Marines came to the door.
“When Diana saw them at the door, she screamed,” said White. “She hasn’t been able to sleep since yesterday (Monday).”
Although the military released no details on the death, U.S. Marines were involved Monday in the second day of an offensive aimed at cracking down on insurgent activity in several troubled cities west of Baghdad. A letter arrived from Olson on the same day the family was told of his death.
“He was always telling his mother not to worry,” White said.
Diana Olson also recently received a gold, diamond-studded necklace from her son as a gift.
“They were such a close-knit family,” said White. “They were always together. It’s heartwrenching.”
White said Olson saw his mission in Iraq as a job that had to be done. When he returned home on leave, dressed in his Marine uniform, he was embarrassed when people would come up to him and thank him for his military service.
“He always volunteered for the heavy duty jobs in Iraq, and he was never afraid,” she said. “But after going to Iraq three times, he’d had enough.”
His mother and father were also wary when he recently returned to Iraq.
“The family was feeling very nervous about the third tour,” White said. “How many times can you be lucky?”