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UPDATED: Vigil set for fallen Marine

Community, family, friends will remember Pfc. Jake William Suter in his Stevenson Ranch neighborhood

Posted: June 1, 2010 10:08 p.m.
Updated: June 1, 2010 12:00 p.m.

The outpouring of love for fallen United States Marine Corps Pfc. Jake William Suter is expected to spill out on to the Stevenson Ranch street he lived on tonight during a candlelight vigil in his honor.

“Jake would always come up to me if he saw me carrying anything heavy,” said Cecile Marin-Manalo, who lived across the street from him. “I wouldn’t even have to call him. He would just come and help me carry it.”

Marin-Manalo began crying.

Suter, 18, died in Afghanistan on Saturday morning Afghanistan time after having arrived there about a week ago with the U.S. Marine Corps.

Assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, Pfc. Suter died while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, and the incident is still under investigation, according to a Department of Defense news release Tuesday.

“I am forever changed by his death,” Marin-Manalo said. “I didn’t expect to feel this way. This is all so close to home.”

The mother of three girls befriended by Suter has so much she wants to say about the young man she knew and loved.

That’s why she’s organized tonight’s vigil, hoping to give other friends a chance to express their love and admiration for the courageous young man who was passionate about serving his country.

Local Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, who is the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, is expected to attend and speak at the vigil, a spokeswoman said.

“We’re expecting a really big crowd,” said Marin-Manalo, noting that some media crews had already shown up on her street.

The vigil will begin at 7 p.m., but because Bates Place is a tiny cul-de-sac, those wanting to visit and take part in the event are being told to park on Kavenaugh Lane.

Marin-Manalo expects many people at the vigil and, so, to that end she’s hoping to have a slide show of Jake, catered with “finger foods” brought by some of the guests.

“My hope is that the vigil will give some support to Michelle (Suter’s mother). I cannot imagine the pain she feels right now,” said Marin-Manalo, whose daughter went to West Ranch High School with Suter.

Those planning to take part in the vigil are asked to bring white candles fixed with some device to catch the dripping wax, she said.

“By all means, people can bring cards and flowers,” she said. “They can bring anything.”

Suter’s parents, Chris and Michelle Unthank, were expected to return home to Stevenson Ranch from Delaware on Tuesday night and are expected to be on hand for the vigil.

Suter’s body is not with them, the young Marine’s father told The Signal, adding that a medical team is examining the body.
He expects the remains to be released to the family in three or four days.

His friends, such as Debi Leggat, are finding it difficult to believe the young man who left for Afghanistan just a week ago is now dead.

“We just had him over for dinner last month,” she said Tuesday.

Talk over the small family dinner centered around his passion for being a Marine.

“He was just so proud to be a Marine,” Leggat said. “He couldn’t have been more proud.”

As she sat listening to Suter talk about his future as a Marine, she worried.

“It scared me,” she said. 


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