AL ASAD, Iraq -- Honoring those who have fallen in combat with eulogies and memorial ceremonies are two ways to help bring closure to loved ones when a relative or close friend passes on.
Four supply warehouse Marines from Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, have memorialized the deceased niece of Staff Sgt. Richard J. Rakoczy, supply warehouse chief, with a sign that will designate the supply section of MAG-16.
"She had only been in the Air Force for about seven months when she was in a car accident at her first duty station in North Dakota," said Rakoczy, the 41-year-old Reynolds, N.D., native. "I have been in the military for more than 20 years and have never had anything like this happen to me, I cannot help but feel that it should have happened to me."
To try and help comfort their leader and fellow Marine, the supply Marines designed and painted a sign to pay tribute to Airman Carly Rakoczy.
"Everyone in the shop came up with their own ideas and we combined everything to come up with the North Dakota state flag and the border in the shape of the state," said Cpl. Thane A. Lindholm, supply warehouse clerk and 23-year-old El Cajon, Calif., native.
"The original design was just to designate the area we work in as Camp Dakota, because that is where she is from, but all the ideas came together to create the sign we have now."
Rakoczy added that he couldn't describe his emotions regarding what his Marines are doing for him.
"When the Marines decided to dedicate the sign to my niece, it was touching to know that my Marines could support me as I was going through something like this," said the Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, who was a soldier during Operation Desert Storm. "I have been deployed five times and each time I was sent home because of a family emergency. This time will be the last because when I leave here I will be retiring."
Another Marine involved in the project is Sgt. Sal Hernandez, a 24-year-old Clear Lake, Calif., native, and assistant warehouse chief for MAG-16.
"I have been with Staff Sergeant Rakoczy since I got out of (military occupational specialty) school in 1998," he said. "I have been with him almost every time he has lost someone in his family and I feel the pain he is going through. He is like my family and I wanted to do something that would recognize the sacrifice he has made to defend his country."
Hernandez added that Rakoczy, as a friend and leader, has helped him through his own losses.
"It feels good to do something for someone when they lose a loved one," Hernandez said. "I have lost relatives since I have been in and (Rakoczy) was always there for me. We just wanted to do something that would help his family cope with their loss."
Rakoczy hopes that this contribution will help his family deal with the grief they are now experiencing.
"In some ways I hope this will bring closure for my brother and sister-in-law," he said. "My sister did not want her daughter to join the military but when she decided to, she supported her daughter 100 percent of the way. When the Marines of MAG-16 return from here I am going to bring the sign to my niece's hometown and present it to her family as a gift from the Marine Corps family."