Charles O. Palmer II knew the risks of joining the military during war. He was 34 when he went back into the Marines 18 months ago.
He wanted to go to Iraq, his father said Monday.
The 36-year-old Marine corporal was stationed in Iraq's Anbar province when he was killed Saturday by a roadside bomb.
Palmer's job was driving Humvees, but he was in the gunner's turret when the bomb exploded, his father said. He figures his son was willing to take the gunner's shift.
"He wanted to be in the turret. That was Charles," his father, Charles
Palmer, 54, said at the family's Manteca home. "He would want to do it. His sense of duty was if his buddies did it, he felt he should have his turn."
The 1989 Manteca High School graduate became the 19th member of the military from the Northern San Joaquin Valley and foothills killed in action in Iraq or Afghanistan.
He was assigned to the 8th Communications Battalion, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group in Camp Lejeune, N.C.
"He had a great sense of duty," Palmer said. "And I know at least part of his decision was what was going on in Iraq. He wanted to serve; he wanted to be part of that."
Palmer played football all four years at Manteca High, was on the wrestling, cross-country and track teams, and loved camping and fishing.
The senior Palmer said his son followed a family tradition of military service and joined the Marine Corps a couple of years after graduating high school. He served six years, including in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm.
But he had a young son in Manteca, Charles Andrew Palmer, who is now 15 and living in Manteca, and decided to leave the Marines to be able to see him more regularly.
Palmer worked as a powder paint coater in North Carolina but often considered law enforcement or returning to the Marines, said his best friend from childhood, David Jones.
"He pretty much decided he always had an interest in (law enforcement), but he liked the camaraderie of the Marines and what it stands for," said Jones, a dispatcher and reserve officer with the Manteca Police Department. "I looked at him as a hero because he stood for what he believed in."
LEFT FOR IRAQ IN FEBRUARY
He was planning to make the Marines his career, Jones said.
He married Tonya Palmer about the same time he reenlisted. They lived with her two children, ages 6 and 8, at Camp Lejeune.
Palmer had injured his ankle in basic training and initially wasn't scheduled to go to Iraq, his father said. "He said it was fine, and they finally caved and let him go."
Palmer was the happiest he had looked in his life during a week in December when his parents visited, Palmer said. "I hadn't seen him that happy. He was joyful. He had so many friends around."
Palmer left for Iraq in February on a tour scheduled to last until September.
It was a tour his family supported.
"We believe in what our country is doing in Iraq," Palmer said. "Even though we lost our son to this, we believe we need to be there."
Palmer said he and his wife, Teri, were at a 50th anniversary party in Twain Harte when they received a call from the military saying they needed to return home for news that couldn't be shared over the telephone.
"You always hold out hope that it's just an injury or something," he said. "But we kind of knew."