HEMET, CA, USA
CPL, I CO, 3D BN, 3D MAR, (RCT-7, I MEF FWD), 3D MAR DIV, MCBH KANEOHE BAY, HI
HADITHAH, IRAQ 06/14/2006
Marine Corporal Michael A. Estrella had loved the military since he was a teenager, serving as a flight commander with the Junior ROTC at Hemet High School.
Estrella, 20, was killed June 14 by a sniper while on foot patrol in Haditha, Iraq.
A field radio operator, he was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Estrella had long wanted to join the military, inspired in part by the experiences of his great-grandfather, Victor Gonzales, who served as a pilot in World War II.
He was just special, Estrella’s mother, Maria, said. He did everything, and he never gave me any problems. He was always there for me and his brothers and sisters. He did a lot for his family.
Estrella enlisted in September 2003 and went to Afghanistan in November 2004. The eight months there changed him, his mother said. He was just depressed about everything he had seen, and he was scared, she said. That’s why when he left for Iraq (in March), it scared us as well.
Along with his mother, Estrella is survived by his father, Francisco, and five brothers and sisters.
Mary Hancock, a fellow cadet with Michael A. Estrella in JROTC, remembered getting a call from Estrella the night before he was to leave for Iraq for the first time.
He was just excited about going there and serving his country, Hancock said.
He was very loving, always smiling. He always said he’ll be there for me, said Maria Estrella, who described how her son, the eldest of six, would look after his siblings while she and her husband, Francisco, were at work.
He was a pretty cool guy, and he loved what he did, said Allison Minkel, a friend.
Estrella spent two years in the ROTC program and was a flight commander in charge of 30 cadets, said Colonel Fred Strain, senior instructor.
I think he was looking forward to the adventure and the discipline and looking forward to how a career in the military could shape him as a man, Strain said.
Michael was one of a kind, said his grandfather, Victor Gonzalez Jr. I’m very proud of him.
He served in Afghanistan with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment from November 2004 to June 2005.
He was awarded the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Sea Service Deployment ribbon.