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Steven C Cates


Lance Corporal Tyler Cates wrote his stepfather in an e-mail message Sunday night that he was preparing for a mission but couldn’t discuss the details.

That was the last time the two communicated. Cates, 22, who had been stationed in Iraq for about a month, died in combat the next day.

”He was a true Boy Scout,” said Phillip Shaw, Cates’ stepfather. ”He was trustworthy; he’d go an extra mile for his friends. I will remember his upbeat attitude, his smile and his laughter.”

Corporal Cates graduated from Mt. Juliet High School in 2001, and joined the Marine Corps eight days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, according to a statement from Lt. Christy Kercheval with the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in California.

This June, Cates, whose full name was Steven Charles Tyler Cates, joined the 1st Battalion of the 7th Marine Regiment as a machine gunner.

He was deployed to Iraq in late August to participate in the second phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the Marine Corps’ statement. Cpl. Cates died in Al-Anbar province in western Iraq, a territory that includes Fallujah, a city close to Baghdad known for violence orchestrated by radical insurgents.

Kercheval wouldn’t elaborate on the circumstances of Cates’ death. She said he was in Iraq to help support local Iraqi government in its daily operations. He received the National Defense Service Medal, a ribbon automatically awarded to those who have served in Iraq and other past wars, Kercheval said.

Corporal Cates’ mother, Patricia Shaw, said that when her son enlisted she was worried but supportive.

”I’m his mom. He said, ‘I need to do this, Mom.’ That boy brought such patriotism (into) my life like no one else. He touched everybody he came in contact with because of his charisma. He had a good heart.”

Corporal Cates’ father, Steve Cates, said he never will forget the times he and his son went camping, fishing and hunting.

”He was the light of my life. He was my son, my pal, my friend. He loved America. He wanted to defend his country and wanted to go over there and give them what we have.”

Steve Cates said he talked with his son on the phone last week for the first time since his deployment.

”He said that they had come under fire the first day or two. But they were taking care of business – that’s what he told me.”

During his high school years, Corporal Cates was an Eagle Scout and worked summers at Camp Boxwell, a Wilson County Boy Scout reservation. He also played baritone horn in the Mt. Juliet High School band.

”He was one of those kids that, from the very beginning, (would say) ‘yes, sir, no sir,’ ” band director Tony Cox said.

”He was very dedicated and kind. He was unique in that he’d come back and visit. He’d check in and let me know what was going on.”

Corporal Cates is survived by his wife, Lisa, of Madison; father, Steve Cates, of Lebanon; mother, Patricia Shaw, Mt. Juliet; three siblings; grandparents and a great-grandmother.


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