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Slain Hollis marine remembered by family, loved ones

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A year after he was killed on duty in Afghanistan, the family and friends of Lance Cpl. Leopold F. Damas said his sacrifice still resonates in their hearts and minds and it inspires them to do good.

At a memorial mass held in honor of the slain Marine last Thursday at the Presbyterian Church of St. Albans, the 26-year-old’s loved ones shared their fondest memories and how he changed their lives. The Rev. Edward Davis led the ceremony and said that even though he did not know the soldier personally, he was touched by his heroics.

“He was not selfish with his gift. He gave his gift so that others may prosper,” he said.

Damas was stationed in Afghanistan on his third tour as a rifleman with Co. G, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 3, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. The Hollis native was killed during a fight in the nation’s Helmand province Aug. 17, 2009.

Damas’ love for the military was well-known among his inner circle, according to his cousin, Guilene Damas. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he longed to be part of the armed services.

In 2006, after being rejected several times because of an asthma condition, Damas enlisted with the Marines and a year later began a tour in Iraq. After the six-month stint was over, he returned to Iraq in July 2008 for another seven-month tour of the country.

His cousin said that despite the dangerous conditions he faced, Damas never showed any sign of fear and always had a smile on is face.

“He heard danger every day, but he kept going on,” she said.

With his second tour completed, the Marine could have stayed at home, but he volunteered for his Afghanistan tour to help his family. Damas saved money for his mother, Carol, who was his world, according to friends.

His mother, a Haitian immigrant, said she still mourns the loss of her son, but the pain has eased slightly because of all of the support she has received over the last year.

“I still miss him, but at the same time I feel more courageous,” she said.

Other mourners shared Mrs. Damas’ sentiment.

City Councilman Mathieu Eugene (D-Brooklyn), a Haitian native, said the Marine’s spirit captured the essence of what it means to be an American. The elected official noted that hundreds of Haitian Americans fight in the armed services and value the code of conduct required of a soldier.

“He died to give the people the opportunity to live and vote,” he said.

Eugene invited Carol Damas to City Hall in the near future to give her a proclamation.

Two Marines also attended the mass to pay their respects to their fallen member. Although they did not serve with Damas, the soldiers said they were connected through their service for their country.

“He was a Marine and as a Marine we take care of our own,” said Staff Sgt. Justino Vasquez.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 6:10 pm, October 10, 2011
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