PAGO PAGO, AMERICAN SAMOA
U.S. MARINE CORPS
LTCOL, H&S CO, 2D BN, 3D MAR,(RCT-1, I MEF FWD),3D MAR DIV, KANEOHE BAY, HI
06/26/2008, KARMAH, IRAQ
A suicide bomber reportedly dressed in a police uniform detonated an explosive belt during a meeting of tribal sheiks opposed to al-Qaida in Iraq. Three Marines, LTCOL Galeai, CPT Philip Dykeman and CPL Marcus W. Preudhomme, two Iraqi interpreters, the local mayor and several key tribal figures were killed.
The bombing occurred just two days before U.S. officials planned to formally hand over security responsibility for Anbar to the Iraqis, marking a major milestone in the transformation of a province that had been the most violent in Iraq.
Friends yesterday remembered LTCOL Galeai, of Pago Pago, American Samoa, as a dedicated family man, a natural leader and a caring buddy who would never burden others with his problems. Just last week, in the midst of his deployment in Iraq, he sent e-mails to friends with jokes about the hot weather and friendly queries about how they were doing.
“I’m trying to cope with the fact that he’s no longer with us,” said MGySGT Taumaoe Gaoteote, of California, a longtime friend.
“I didn’t know how to react when I heard. I never thought it would actually happen to him.”
In a newsletter for families of Kaneohe-based Marines, LTCOL Galeai wrote in February that during the deployment, battalion members would be “working with Iraqi police, Iraqi army and other(s) … as we help the Iraqi people establish the conditions necessary for them to assume responsibility for their own security and local governance.”
One of LTCOL Galeai’s friends, MGySGT Paul Moniz, of New York, said he heard from Max Galeai about a week ago in an e-mail. Galeai didn’t talk much about what he was doing in Iraq, but made sure to ask Moniz about how he was holding up.
“He was a friend, mentor, bigger than life, extremely bright, just one of those guys,” Moniz said.
Paul Moniz, who served under Max Galeai, said the officer always “sunk his teeth into his work” and expected a lot from people, but also praised them when they delivered. “He was definitely an inspirational guy. He was caring, compassionate.”
MSGT Brett W. Beard, of California, also worked under LTCOL Galeai. “He just made it super easy to go out there to work day after day. His first love was always leading Marines.”
LTCOL Galeai graduated from Oregon State University in 1988, and joined the Marines out of college. Before Hawaii, he served in Virginia, California, Okinawa and elsewhere. His service awards include two Bronze Stars, The Purple Heart and five Meritorious Service Medals.
LTCOL Galeai is survived by his wife, Evelyn, and four children.