RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Two Marines based at Camp Lejeune were killed in Iraq on March 8, according to the Department of Defense.
The Marines have been identified as Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo, 34, of Simi Valley, California, and Capt. Moises A. Navas, 34, of Germantown, Maryland.
Both Marines were assigned to the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Forces Special Operations Command at Camp Lejeune.
Pongo and Navas “suffered fatal wounds while accompanying Iraqi Security Forces during a mission to eliminate an ISIS stronghold in a mountainous area of north central Iraq,” according to officials.
According to the Department of Defense, Pongo enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2004 and had previously been deployed to Helmand Province in Afghanistan.
Pongo earned “a Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device for heroic actions against the enemy in 2013 while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom,” the DOD said. “In addition to his Bronze Star, Gunnery Sgt. Pongo’s personal decorations also include: a Purple Heart, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, two Combat Action Ribbons, the Army Valorous Unit Award, four Good Conduct Medals, two Humanitarian Service Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and four Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.”
Pongo is survived by his daughter and mother, officials said.
As for Navas, he also enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2004 and had previously supported two unit deployments in Japan.
“His personal decorations include the Purple Heart, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, two Good Conduct Medals, and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and four Sea Service Deployment Ribbons,” according to the DOD.
Navas is survived by his wife, daughter, and three sons.
Marine Raider Regiment Commanding Officer, Col. John Lynch released the following statement:
On behalf of the Marine Raider Regiment and all of MARSOC, our most sincere condolences go out to the families of Gunnery Sgt. Pongo and Capt. Navas. The loss of these two incredible individuals is being felt across our organization, but it cannot compare to the loss that their families and teammates are experiencing. Both men epitomize what it means to be a Marine Raider. They were intelligent, courageous, and loyal. They were dedicated leaders, true professionals in their craft, and willing to go above and beyond for the mission and their team. They were not just leaders today, they were both on the path to be our organizations leaders in the future. They were also family men, adoring husbands and fathers…Capt. Navas to his wife, daughter, and three young sons, and Gunnery Sgt. Pongo to his little girl. Both men were incredibly humble and truly the quiet professionals that define our SOF warriors. Gunnery Sgt. Pongo balanced that with his larger-than-life personality. The command as a whole became witness to his dynamic personality, and love for family, when he brought his mom to this past year’s Marine Corps Birthday Ball ceremony and together they out-danced the rest of us on the dance floor. He also loved going on adventures with his daughter, hiking, camping, and woodworking. He was a MARSOF advanced sniper, a foreign weapons instructor, a combat marksmanship leader, and he was fluent in multiple languages. Capt. Navas, who was known to most as “Mo”, was born in Panama but grew up in Maryland. In addition to being a phenomenal Marine officer and Raider, he truly was a family man, and cherished his time watching his children play sports. He was also a scout sniper, a martial arts instructor, combat diver, and was recently selected for promotion to the rank of Major. The hearts of the entire Marine Raider community are with the Pongo and Navas families as we mourn this tremendous loss. In times like these we come together and rely on each other, sharing our burdens and providing strength to those that need it. We will do everything we can to lift up and support our grieving families in order to and honor the incredible lives and the ultimate sacrifices of Gunnery Sgt. Pongo and Capt. Navas.”Marine Raider Regiment Commanding Officer, Col. John Lynch
Both Marines’ deaths are under investigation, according to the DOD.
On Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper released a memorandum ordered all U.S. and North Carolina flags be lowered to half-staff in honor of Pongo and Navas.
The order takes effect Tuesday and will remain until sunset Sunday.
“We are deeply saddened by the news that two Camp Lejeune marines lost their lives in service to our country on Sunday. I am grateful for Capt. Moises A. Navas and Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo’s courage, and our thoughts are with their loved ones.”North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper
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