Sgt. Clarence Palmer served with Matthew V. Dillon during his first tour in Iraq.
"When I first met him, I said, 'Who is this spoiled little momma's boy?'" said Palmer. "If you look at the bratty little momma's boy and look at the young man I watched graduate at Parris Island, he had reached his potential. He was focused."
Dillon, 25, of Aiken, S.C., was killed Dec. 11 by a roadside bomb in Khalidiyah. He was assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and was on his second tour.
Dillon was a 1999 high school graduate and attended Augusta State University for about two years before joining the National Guard. While on his first tour, Dillon was awarded a Purple Heart after he was wounded in the hand by shrapnel.
On Christmas 2003, Dillon, who was stationed near Fallujah, met up with older brother Robert, who was stationed in Baghdad. The two were photographed with David Letterman, who was visiting the troops, with one of Letterman's arms draped over each man's shoulders and his signature cigar in one hand.
"Both of them said it was the best Christmas they ever spent," recalled their father.
He also is survived by his mother, Lucy.