ELKO - A 2004 Elko High School graduate was killed in Iraq on Friday while serving his second tour of duty with the U.S. Marine Corps. Lance Cpl. Raul Bravo Jr., 21, is believed to be the first Elkoan killed in the war that began four years ago this month.
Bravo died when the vehicle he was in drove over a roadside bomb in Al Qaim, north of Baghdad. Two other Marines were also killed. The Department of Defense has not released their names or hometowns.
"These are things that happen," said Bravo's father, Raul Bravo Sr., a City of Elko Water Department employee who spoke from Las Vegas, where his son will be buried. "I don't know what to think."
The family moved to Elko in 1993.
"Raul always had an incentive to be a Marine," said Saul Quintero, Bravo's friend since the seventh grade. "He said when he left the service he wanted to be a cop in L.A. He just liked that kind of stuff."
Bravo spent seven months in Iraq in 2005 and had been there on his second tour since August. Bravo's father told the Free Press he saw on Spanish television that three Marines had died, but didn't fear Raul was one of them. The father and son last spoke Feb. 28 and the family learned of his death late Saturday.
"We're passing through a bad time. We're asking God for help," said the elder Bravo. "His mother is (upset), of course," he added. The couple divorced several years ago, and Bravo's mother and three sisters live in Las Vegas.
Rachel Bravo said her brother, whose nickname was Chato, was based out of 29 Palms, Calif., and the last time the family visited with Raul was in late August.
"We're kind of dealing with waves of emotion at the moment," Rachel said. "We really want to take care of it. We're just remembering what kind of man he was. Everyone needs to support our troops regardless of how you feel. These are our brothers, sons, nephews out there. These are sisters, daughters and nieces, and we need to support every one of them."
Bravo was assigned to the USMC's 3rd Battalion, Fourth Regiment, Indio Company.
Quintero, a Great Basin Bank employee and student at Great Basin College, said he and Bravo were part of a tight-knit group of friends from Elko High. "He'd tell us crazy things about the war when he visited, and then he'd say, 'Let's go have some fun.' I miss him already."
Quintero said Bravo and Raul Sr. often helped an elderly woman with her gardening. "That's just the way he was," Quintero said. "He liked to help people."
Struggling to remain composed, Quintero said he and other friends tried to talk Bravo into joining the U.S. Air Force after high school. It was something they all wanted to do. "He wanted no part of the Air Force. He said he needed his rush."
Monday night Quintero and several other of Bravo's buddies gathered to remember their fallen friend. "We're just going to kick back," he said. "And get some things off our chests."
Rachel said the family plans to make the pilgrimage to Elko in the near future. They'll go to Main City Park, where the elder Bravo's water department co-workers will plant a tree in the name of a young Marine who made the ultimate sacrifice for his nation.