US Marine Corporal Leonardo A Contreras, born December of 1984, in Michoacan, Mexico, beloved son of Maria Gutierrez; beloved husband of Ester Contreras.
Born in Mexico, Leo came to the United States with his mother, Maria Gutierrez, when he was 4 years old. He always wanted to be in either law enforcement or the military, family said.
Leo chose the Marines, like his stepfather did.
Contreras was sent to boot camp just days after graduating from South High in 2003. He wound up in Pensacola, Fla., where he met up with a high school acquaintance and his future wife, Esther, who was in the Navy.
In February 2006, he was sent to Iraq. Cpl Contreras worked as a mechanic, at Al Asad Airfield, in western Iraq. Being in battle wasn’t supposed to be part of his job, but on one occasion he and some fellow Marines left the base and ended up in the middle of a gunfight.
And what he witnessed there before his return in September 2006 shook him, Esther said. During the 11 months Contreras spent at home before the Marines called him back to Iraq, Esther learned what had happened to him during his first tour. Leo told her the story through tears, she said. Needless to say, he was nervous about returning. But Leo loved the military.
“In his mind, it was the best thing he could do because he was serving his country,” Esther said. “But he didn’t want to go back to what he saw.”
Leonardo was, by nature, an outgoing, amiable young man and had a positive outlook on life. However, after two tours in Iraq, he returned to Ester and his daughter a changed man. He was sullen and depressed. He had witnessed combat and couldn’t remove the war that waged in his mind.
His awards include the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and National Defense Service Medal.
Cpl Leonardo A Contreras lost his battle with PTS, September 16, 2008. He was 23 years old.