Cpl John R. Stalvey, 22
Conroe, Texas

Cpl John R. Stalvey died 03 October 2005 during Operation Iron Fist in Karabilah, Iraq, said military officials. The operation was intended to take control of areas from insurgents before the Oct. 15 vote on a new constitution.

Stalvey, a Scout Sniper, was based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where he was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

A.P. Merillat, Stalvey's uncle, said military officials told him that his nephew was driving an armored Hummer and traveling with three Army soldiers when the bomb exploded. ''They said he took the full brunt of the explosion," Merillat said.

The military said the death was the first in Iron Fist. The number of U.S. military members killed since the beginning of the war in 2003 stands at 1,941, according to an Associated Press count.

Merillat said Stalvey was born June 6, 1983, in Jacksonville, Fla., but spent most of his life in Brunswick, Ga. He graduated from Faith Baptist Christian Academy in Ludowici, Ga., in June 2001.

Stalvey moved to Conroe to live with Merillat and his wife, Anne, shortly after graduation. He worked with the Montgomery County Animal Control Department and was an active member of Mims Baptist Church in Conroe.

Merillat said his nephew joined the Marines after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He said Stalvey believed it was his duty to protect his country against terrorism.

Merillat said Stalvey asked him to take him to the recruiting center, where he was told boot camp was full.

He had to wait until March 2002 to attend boot camp in Parris Island, S.C.

A.P. Merillat said Stalvey had tours of duty in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan and Africa before he was called to serve in Iraq in August. He had just finished sniper training at Camp Lejeune.

''Sniper school was his goal, his dream," A.P. Merillat said.

Anne Merillat described her nephew as a Christian who loved to hunt, fish, draw and sculpt. He also was ''the most patriotic person I've ever known," she said.

She said Stalvey made the couple a sculpture that they cherish: a bust of a colonial soldier, which he called ''Patriot."

The couple said the last time they saw Stalvey was in December when he visited Texas with his mother, Crystal Merillat, and his older brother Matt Stalvey and younger sister Cristen Stalvey, who all live in Brunswick, Ga. The Merillats have a large family, and most of them live in the Houston area.

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