CAMP FORWARD OPERATING BASE DUKE, Iraq – -- Even though he was only with his platoon for three months, he left a lasting memory. To his fellow mortarmen, Sgt. Yadir Reynoso, a native of Yakime, Wash., was a prankster and a professional, a joker and an expert in Marine affairs.
Reynoso, squad leader, 81mm Mortar Platoon, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), only spent three months with the platoon before he died fighting in the Wadi Al Salam cemetery during combat operations in An Najaf, Iraq, on Aug. 6.
His fellow Marines affectionately called him "tattoo" for the abundance of permanent artwork that completely covered his arms. But aside from just his nickname, his unique personality is remembered in two different shades, one of fun and the other of intense exertion.
"He liked messing with the Marines," said Sgt. Nelson A. Martinez, squad leader, 81mm Plt. "He liked to make people laugh."
The occasions were so numerous that Martinez had trouble remembering specific stories.
"He was a jokester and a prankster in his free time, but when it came time to work he was very professional. He never really showed any of that around the gunny or me," said 1st Lt. Lamar D. Breshears, platoon commander, 81mm Plt. "When it came to his job, he was very aggressive."
The funny to serious shift is well remembered by a couple Marines in 81mm Plt. who actually had Reynoso as an instructor in the School of Infantry on Camp Pendleton, Calif., before he came to BLT 1/4.
"He'd joke around with us a lot and everybody would be laughing, but then we'd go and do something stupid and it would all change," said Lance Cpl. Paul T. Ricotta, mortarman, 81mm Plt., implying Reynoso would then change from joking around to strictly correcting them.
However, the fun never got in the way of accomplishing the mission.
"He loved playing games but made sure the Marines knew their stuff," said Lance Cpl. George A. Snyder, forward observer, 81mm Plt. "He was real smart in infantry and mortars."
He readily shared his knowledge with the less experienced Marines.
"We could always go up to him and ask him a question at any time," said Lance Cpl. Kevin J. Knight, mortarman, 81mm Plt.
Ricotta, Snyder and Knight were in Reynoso's 81mm squad even after he instructed them at SOI.
Reynoso's expertise impressed his superiors as well. They recall him fitting right into the platoon when he arrived. While on ship, right after he arrived to the unit, he jumped right in to help teach the Marines small arms manipulation and mortar gun drills.
"He had a vast knowledge of the capabilities of each weapon," Breshears said. "He wasn't a squad leader then, but he assumed the responsibilities immediately."
Martinez didn't notice a single glitch when Reynoso arrived.
"When I first met him I didn't know who he was, but right away I could tell he would fit right in," Martinez said.
Martinez suspects Reynoso's outgoing personality may have caused this. He fit perfectly into the platoon so much that was if he had always been there.
"The whole way driving up here I would have thought I had known him my whole life, instead of two weeks," Martinez said.
Reynoso's comical side never tainted Breshears' image of him.
"It was nothing bad or anything," Breshears chuckled. "He was just messing around with other sergeants."
Some thought that even with his serious side, he could never totally hide his love of life.
"He was always happy and always outgoing," said Sgt. Joel D. Reilly, squad leader, 81mm Plt. "I can't remember when he was in a bad mood."
Martinez recalled one time, when he brought a smile to everyone's face while they were at Forward Operating Base Echo.
"He wore this body spray that smelled disgusting," Martinez said. "He always put it on, and I asked him why he used it."
Reynoso smiled and said he "had to smell good." Martinez laughed and asked whom he "wanted to smell good for, since we are in the middle of Iraq.
"He said 'for you guys,' just joking around," Martinez said.
Reilly and Martinez laughed.
"Everybody liked him and we never had any problems, he fit right in," Reilly said.
Martinez recalled how Reynoso also had a knack for making the Marines feel at home.
"Once he made a mural in front of our squad bay out here out of rocks," he said. "It said USMC in old English letters and he painted it black and gold. He liked to express himself in many ways."
Even though he was only with the platoon for three months, they all miss him.
"If there is ever a missing piece of the puzzle, he is that piece," said Gunnery Sgt. Corey S. Bennin, platoon sergeant, 81mm Plt.
This is the fifth in a series of seven articles paying homage to the Marines of the 11th MEU who bravely fought and lost their lives during fighting in An Najaf, Iraq, this August.