†Marine Capt. Gregory Ratzlaff
A gentle, peace-loving man, Gregory Ratzlaff was on track to becoming a Navy SEAL before switching to becoming a medic.
"He decided he liked the training but didn''t like the job of doing covert operations," said his mother, Kathleen. He left the Navy but realized he had "an unfulfilled dream" of becoming a pilot, so he joined the Marines, earning his wings in three years.
"They wanted him to fly jets on some gunship," his mother said. "But he wanted to fly (helicopter) transports and do search and rescue, and that''s what he did."
Ratzlaff, 36, of San Diego, died Aug. 3 in a non-combat incident at a base near Najaf, Iraq. He was based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
Ratzlaff, who was married and had a 2-year-old son, originally entered the service in 1990.
He spent his free time pursuing his love of water sports, a passion he wanted to pass on to his son.