INSIDE STORY ON OXNARD SAILOR
Allan Espiritu was born 24 April 1977, He immigrated to the United States in March 1981 with his family. The eldest of three brothers, he grew up in Oxnard, California where his father Alvin Espiritu worked as an accountant for the City of Oxnard.
He graduated from Channel Islands High School in 1995. Allan then enrolled at Oxnard College and was interested in Marine Biology but thought about switching to Dentistry. However after attending the graduation of his younger brother Neil from Navy Recruit Training at NTC Great Lakes, Illinois. Allan changed his mind. He enlisted in the Navy a few months later in 1997.
Allan married his High School sweetheart, Melissa Loyola in 1996. First daughter Alissa is now 9 years old, followed by Melanie, 7 years old. After Navy boot camp (recruit training), Allan followed his younger brother's choice and trained also to be a Hospital Corpsman. His first billet (assignment) was at Twenty Nine Palms, CA with the United States Marines Corps as a Fleet Marine Force (FMF) Corpsman. Here began to take care of "his" Marines.
When you get injured in the Marines, the Corpsman will take care of you. Also called "Doc" by their patients, the Navy provides Hospital Corpsmen to Marine Units. They become part of the Marine Platoon and do what they do and go where they go. Their job description is to treat Marines when they are injured and keep them alive till they can be evacuated to the rear medical facility.
Allan was one of those Corpsmen who did more than his job and learned the skills of his companions, according to the Marines. Later on his second tour of duty with the Marines, Allan volunteered to be with a Marine Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) Platoon. Allan was among the first few Navy Corpsmen to undergo training and qualify as Marine Scout Snipers, earning the coveted Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 8541.
He also completed Mountain Warfare Training and qualified as a parachutist. On his first deployment to Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) he earned his gold jump wings on the second day of the invasion. His unit belonging to the Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines entered Iraq by doing a combat jump (Airborne entry) in an enemy held area.
In between his Sea Duty tours with the Marines, Allan was able to select Shore Duty at Naval Base Ventura County Medical Clinic, Port Hueneme near home at Oxnard. He applied his field skills by volunteering for the base Navy Auxiliary Security Force (NASF). These personnel assisted base security officers during times of emergency and threat alerts. At the clinic his fellow corpsmen said he worked hard, and played hard. He knew how to keep morale up at the clinic. His practical jokes were so notorious that his co-workers could not tell them to an outsider.
HM2 (FMF) Jaimer Cadang was one of his fellow corpsmen. "I knew Allan way back from church here in Oxnard" I joined the Navy late 1996 a few months before Allan did in 1997. We got to work together at the clinic when he came to shore duty here at Oxnard.
HM2 (FMF) Jonathan Soto from Colusa, CA also worked with Allan at the Port Hueneme clinic. He also deployed with Allan and Jaimer on February 2003 to Kuwait assigned to 1st BN 7th Marines. "We have a picture of the three of us together that was taken in Najaf on August 2003.
It was at the Pt. Hueneme Clinic that Allan met Erika, a Navy Hospital Corpsman, who he later married. He treated Erika's daughter Alexy, now five years old, like his own. Allan's other life was for his family, particularly his "girls"!
After moving into their first home at Menefe CA, north-east of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton off the 215 freeway, Allan asked his three daughters how they wanted their rooms decorated. "He worked on the girls rooms when he got off work. Allan got it all done before he deployed again to Iraq for the second time" his father Alvin said while showing the pictures of Allan with his family.
"I think Allan's adventurer's spirit runs in our family. His great-grandfather was mayor of our home town of Taytay, Rizal in WW2 and his grandfather's brother was the town's Chief of Police in the 60s'." Alvin explained. "One of Allan's' uncles also became a Mayor of Taytay, another a Police officer and another uncle graduated from the Philippine Military Academy (Normando Dacanay Naval from La Union)." "Allan was thinking of becoming a police officer, before he enlisted for a second time with the Navy." Alvin said.
Allan went on his second deployment to Iraq in the end of July 2005. Because of the shortage of Corpsmen for the Marine units, many shore duty billets like those at Pt. Hueneme Clinic were cut short to fill the need for Iraq. Allan could have selected to be in a medical support unit, but he volunteered again to be at the front. This time with an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Platoon, of the 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st. Service Support Group, based out of Camp Pendleton, California.
There are two Corpsman billets in the platoon. They have to volunteer and have to had prior Special Operations background experience. EOD requires patience and cool nerves especially under fire, to work with explosive devices that have to be neutralized. In Iraq this was a daily occurrence with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
Allan was a member of an EOD team responsible for a sector in Ar Ramadi City. They were on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week, to take care of any IEDs that were discovered. Allan's 4 man team rode in a Humvee, he was the Corpsman in case anything happened. The other three were EOD technicians, one of them is the EOD Team Leader a Marine Senior Non Commissioned Officer (NCO). This happened to be Jose C. Soto. This past October the team was moving on the ground on foot, when they were hit by enemy fire. Soto was one of the first to get hit, collapsing his right lung and immobilizing his right arm. Allan their team "doc" was there and treated Soto on the spot and got him evacuated.
Ten days later. While responding to a call-out, Allan's' team parked their Humvee to approach an IED that had been discovered. As two of the Marine EOD techs. stepped out the back doors of the Humvee, a second hidden IED under where they had parked was detonated. It blew the Humvee in the air, killing the driver and Allan who had been seated in the front passenger seat. This was reported to have occurred on Tuesday, 1 November 2005, All Souls Day.
A week later, Allan was brought back to Oxnard. At his wake I saw many from the Filipino community in Ventura County pay their respects to his family. These were the kids who were his classmates from High School, church members from the Iglesia Ni Cristo, the congregation of the Baptist Church that his father Alvin was the pastor of. Retired Filipino Navy veterans also came to offer their condolences. Allan's mother Evelyn Cundangan was a co-worker of my wife in the electronics assembly field. I even met a distant nephew who I had not seen in a while.
Allan was laid to rest with full military honors at the Ivy Lawn Cemetery in Ventura on 10 November. It had been raining for the past days, the sky cleared later in the morning while we waited for his casket to arrive. The sun warmed our faces as Allan's flag draped casket was carried to the gravesite. His Navy pallbearers all bore the Hospital Corpsman insignia on their Chevrons. They were his friends, and fellow "doc's". During his duty at the Port Hueneme Clinic, Allan would volunteer to organize a funeral detail when he knew a Navy Corpsman was to be buried. He would recruit his fellow medics at the clinic to be part of the detail." Allan said this was how we take care of our own," according to his friend Jaimer Cadang who blew "TAPS" on the bugle at the grave side. They now were taking care of Allan.
The Navy Chaplain presided over the ceremony. The most senior Naval medical officer on the West Coast, presented the flag of the United States to Allan's widow Erika, and to his mother Evelyn and father Alvin with the words, "on behalf of a grateful nation..." A state of California Flag that was flown over the State Capitol in Sacramento was then presented to the widow by a California Highway Patrol Officer.
The Navy Base Commanding Officer and Medical Staff of the clinic paid their respects. Oxnard Mayor Holden and the Assistant Chief of Police followed. The Marines were represented by Lt. Colonel and a First Sergeant in their dress blue uniforms. At the side also in their dress blue's were almost squad of Marines who all wore EOD Bage. They to had come to pay their respects. Allan's team leader Jose Soto was also there, his arm slung in a cast under his civilian suit. He told Erika what Allan did for him, and what had happened on the day Allan died.
It seemed appropriate, to be buried on the day of the Marine Corps Birthday, the brothers-in-arms he gone to off to battle with. There is an empty table set aside at the Mess ( dinning room), as a memorial for those that are not longer with us. It is a fixture at the Marine Birthday Ball. The significance of the upturned wine glass, a saucer with a sprinkling of salt and a slice of lemon. Now that table is set for Allan.
"We go into harms way that our children will sleep safely tonight."
.Story by Franz Tinio-Lopez - 16 November 2005
..HM2 (FMF) Jonathan Soto with Niel Espiritu and HM2 (FMF) Jaimer Cadang.....
Pastor Alvin Espiritu's three sons; Allan, Jeremy and Neil
Erika and Allan
HM2 (FMF) Jaimer Cadang blows "Taps" on the bugle.