Marcus Vinicio Muralles – Sergeant First Class, United States Army

The Department of Defense announced today the death of eight soldiers and eight sailors who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Soldiers killed were:

  • Staff Sergeant Shamus O. Goare, 29, of Danville, Ohio
  • Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature, 35, of Clarks Grove, Minnesota
  • Sergeant Kip A. Jacoby, 21, of Pompano Beach, Florida
  • Sergeant First Class Marcus V. Muralles, 33, of Shelbyville, Indiana
  • Master Sergeant James W. Ponder III, 36, of Franklin, Tennessee
  • Major Stephen C. Reich, 34, of Washington Depot, Connecticut
  • Sergeant First Class Michael L. Russell, 31, of Stafford, Virginia
  • Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach, 40, of Jacksonville, Florida.

All of these soldiers were assigned to the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Hunter Army Air Field, Georgia.

Sailors killed were:

  • Chief Petty Officer Jacques J. Fontan, 36, of New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Senior Chief Petty Officer Daniel R. Healy, 36, of Exeter, New Hampshire
  • Lieutenant Commander Erik S. Kristensen, 33, of San Diego, California
  • Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffery A. Lucas, 33, of Corbett, Oregon
  • Lieutenant Michael M. McGreevy, Jr., 30, of Portville, New York
  • Petty Officer 2nd Class James Suh, 28, of Deerfield Beach, Florida
  • Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, 22, of Boulder City, Nevada
  • Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey S. Taylor, 30, of Midway, West Virginia
  • Healy, Patton and Suh were assigned to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team One, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Fontan, Kristensen, Lucas, McGreevy and Taylor were assigned to SEAL Team Ten, Virginia Beach, Virginia

All 16 were killed while conducting combat operations when the MH-47 helicopter that they were aboard crashed in the vicinity of Asadabad, Afghanistan in Kumar Province on June 28, 2005.



Hoosier is 1 of 16 dead in Afghanistan
Ex-Shelbyville man was set to be U.S.-bound for daughter's birthday
By John Tuohy

Sergeant First Class Marcus V. Muralles was supposed to be on his way back to the United States to celebrate his daughter's 10th birthday on July 4.

But the former Shelbyville resident's plans changed at the last minute, family members said Saturday.

Muralles, 33, was among the 16 U.S. troops killed Tuesday when their helicopter was shot down during a rescue mission in eastern Afghanistan.

The Army medic got the assignment, which involved the search for a missing elite military team, after another medic suffered a leg injury.

“When the Army officer came to tell us that Marcus was on the helicopter, I told him that couldn't be,” said Bob Dill, Shelbyville, his stepfather. “I said his wife talked to him two days ago, and he was all packed up and ready to go for his daughter's birthday.”

Muralles joined the Army in August 1994 and served in the special operations forces. An aerial flight medic, he served with the 3rd Battalion, 160th Airborne based at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Muralles, who was born in New Orleans and raised in Shelbyville, has a wife, Diana, and two children, Anna Elise, 9, and Marcus, 4. The family lives near an Army base in Savannah, Georgia.

“They were his pride,” said Muralles' mother, Rosemarie Dill, Shelbyville. “He told his wife how he wanted to buy a five-bedroom house and give his son his own room and computer because he was so smart beyond his years.”

Muralles loved medicine and planned to obtain medical training in the Army.

Bob Dill said he tried to persuade Muralles to enter medical school as a civilian, but Muralles was too attached to the Army.

“We said it's real dangerous in the Army and that he could do as much good in civilian life as he could there,” Dill said. “But he wouldn't hear of it. He wanted to be an Army physician.”

The same argument failed after Muralles underwent six months of training with paramedics in San Antonio, Texas.

“I said, ‘Why don't you do that?' But he wouldn't buy it then, either,” Dill said. “He was just real proud of where he was, and he loved fighting for his country.”

Muralles served two stints in Iraq and three in Afghanistan and had received several military honors.

He was posthumously awarded medals, including the Bronze Star.

The Chinook helicopter went down Tuesday while trying to “extract” the missing soldiers from the remote eastern mountains where they vanished that same day.

The bodies of the 16 killed in the helicopter crash were loaded in flag-draped caskets onto a C-17 transport plane during an emotional ceremony Friday night and flown to Dover, Delaware, Army officials said.

The loss of the 16 was the deadliest single blow to American forces that ousted the Taliban in 2001 and are now fighting the escalating insurgency.

Muralles will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, as he had requested.

Born in Jefferson Parish to Guatemalan-immigrant parents, Marcus Muralles' patriotism drew him to the U.S. Army's elite special forces. So it was appropriate that his daughter Anna was born on the Fourth of July, relatives said.

Muralles planned to be home from Afghanistan on Monday to celebrate Anna's 10th birthday with his wife, Diana, and son, Dominic, at their home near Savannah, Georgia, where his aviation unit is based.

Instead, the celebration went on without him.

Muralles, 33, a Sergeant First Class, was one of 16 soldiers and sailors killed June 28, when their Army MH-47D Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.

“They had a cake and they promised they weren't going to cry,” said Muralles' cousin, Vivian Muralles Weldon. “They kept their promise.”

His family was notified of his death on Wednesday, days before the Department of Defense announced the names of those who were killed aboard the copter, which went down during a mission to rescue a missing military team.

Among the missing was Navy Chief Petty Officer Jacques Fontan, 36, a SEAL who grew up in Algiers.

Word of Muralles' death affected family members around the globe, from his mother, Rosemarie Dill, in Indiana, to his father, Arturo Muralles, in Guatemala, Weldon said.

“It was really sad for us,” said his uncle, Jose Muralles of Harahan.

War zone veteran

Muralles was born at Ochsner Foundation Hospital in 1971 and spent most of his youth in Terrytown, where he “was very into the military stuff,” said Weldon, a Kenner native who moved to Florida last year. When his parents divorced in the mid-1980s, he moved with his mother to Shelbyville, Indiana,

He enlisted in the Army in August 1994 and became an elite Ranger. He served a tour of duty, went into the inactive ready reserve, and returned to active duty in 1998, according to the Army. He also returned to the 75th Ranger Regiment in the medical field, where he remained until 2003, when he became an aerial flight medic assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the Night Stalkers.

Muralles deployed to Afghanistan about a month ago, his second tour there, Weldon said. He also served three times in Iraq, she said. Along the way, he earned numerous commendations.

Wouldn't leave service

His family wanted him to get out of the Army and study medicine, she said. But he wanted to stay in.

“The military was the first thing in his life,” Weldon said. “After his kids were born, they were first. They were his pride and joy. He loved to help everybody. He had an amazing heart. It's a tremendous loss for the entire family.”

His return home for Anna's birthday was to be a surprise, relatives said. Little did he know he'd be sent on the ill-fated flight because another medic had injured his leg. “His plans changed at the last minute,” Weldon said.

The Army posthumously awarded Muralles a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal, an Air Medal and a Combat Action Badge.

Services will be Thursday at Hunter Army Airfield near Savannah, where his unit is based. Muralles will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., Weldon said.

Lack of memorial disturbs family of fallen soldier

The name of Sergeant First Class Marcus V. Muralles is etched in a war memorial near the state Capitol in Indianapolis that honors 87 Hoosiers who died in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Muralles' mother and stepfather, Rosemarie and Bob Dill of Shelbyville, attended a Jan. 9 ceremony in which the wall was unveiled and dedicated. While their grief over losing Muralles is still raw, they are immensely proud that his home state of Indiana has honored him.

But when they arrived at Monday morning's Memorial Day observance on the Shelby County Courthouse lawn, they were surprised that a white cross for Muralles was not among the 148 crosses that symbolized the county's war dead since World War I.

Nor was Muralles' name read during the ceremony.

After the service, Bob Dill asked Jack Hewitt, master of ceremonies, why Muralles did not have a cross. “I was just disappointed,” said Dill, who retired from the Coast Guard.

Hewitt did not immediately say why there was no cross for Muralles, and he did not express any condolences toward Dill. “I said, ‘Is it because Mark wasn't born in Indiana?' and he jumped on it and said, ‘That's the reason.'”

Hewitt is chairman of a Memorial Day committee comprised of local members from American Legion Post No. 70 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 2695 in Shelbyville.

Muralles was born on October 5, 1971, in New Orleans. His mother, Rosemarie Dill, is a first-generation immigrant who came to the United States when she was 18 years old.

During Muralles' high school years, he lived with his father, Leonel Muralles, in San Antonio, but he visited his mother and sister, Cynthia Swazay, in Shelbyville whenever he could. (Leonel now lives in Guatemala City with his wife, Aura, and Cynthia lives in Indianapolis with her husband, Michael Swazay, and their three children.)

When Muralles graduated from high school, he joined the Army, starting out as an infantryman. After finishing his first hitch, he left the Army and moved in with the Swazays in Shelbyville. He went to work in the former Libbey Owens Ford, a factory now called Pilkington USA, at 300 Northridge Drive.

Bob Dill said his stepson decided to go back into the Army following the Battle of Mogadishu on October 3, 1993, which claimed the lives of 19 soldiers and wounded 73.

Muralles re-enlisted in Shelbyville, but he also had other links to the city. His daughter Anna Elise, 10, was born here, and he had been living here for four years, Bob Dill said.

Rosemarie Dill taught her son many things, including the importance of voting. Bob Dill said his wife has voted in every election since she became a U.S. citizen. They were touched when, after Muralles' death, Shelbyville officials sent them Muralles' voter registration card.

But even with all of these connections, Hewitt maintained that Muralles's name should not be on a white cross because he was not born in Shelby County. He mistakenly thought Muralles was born in Guatemala.

However, Private Shawn D. Pahnke, who grew up in Manhattan, Illinois, south of Chicago, does have his name on a cross. Pahnke was killed by a sniper on June 16, 2003, in Iraq. He had married a Shelbyville woman, Elisha (Callis) Pahnke, and they had a son, Dean, whom he never met.

At a Memorial Day service in 2004, officials said Pahnke was the first Shelby County resident to die in combat in more than 30 years.

Bob and Rosemarie Dill were disheartened that Muralles was not honored with a cross. “They should be proud that this boy is considered a Hoosier, rather than shunning him and saying he's not a Hoosier,” Bob Dill said.

Muralles, 33, was killed June 28, 2006, when an MH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed while ferrying personnel to a battle against militants in eastern Afghanistan. A total of 16 Special Operations soldiers died in the crash. Muralles was a medic in the Army's elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. He was in the secretive helicopter unit's 3rd Battalion, based at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia.

Muralles had been to Iraq twice and he was on his third trip to Afghanistan when his helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

He is one of about 270 fighting men and women of the nearly 2,500 who have fallen since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. The Dills were recently honored as a “gold star” family at a ceremony at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

American Legion Post No. 70, 1125 S. Miller Ave., held a memorial service for Muralles on July 25. More than 100 people attended.

After hearing Muralles' story, Doug Warnecke, president of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners, said he believes Muralles should have a cross in New Orleans, at Hunter Army Airfield and in Shelby County.

“These crosses are to remind us of their sacrifices,” said Warnecke, a retired Army colonel. “He has touched the lives of many people in this county, so his cross should be here.”

Warnecke said the commissioners only authorize the crosses to be placed on the courthouse lawn. “I don't make the rules,” he said. “But if it were left up to me, I wouldn't have made that decision.”

Steve Short, the department adjutant and chief administrative officer of the Indiana branch of the American Legion, agreed. “I know how people can get hung up with rules,” Short said.

And while Short said his state organization has no jurisdiction over the local organization, he said it would have been wise on the part of the committee to have erred on the side of placing the cross, rather than not placing it.

“This man died for his country,” Short said.

Short said he believed the local post should apologize to the Dills.

By Tuesday, the Dills had decided to go to the American Legion post to retrieve a photograph of Muralles that is hanging there, but when they arrived, no one was there with a key who could get into the glass-covered case.

The post's outgoing commander, Paul Veneri, was tied up in court all week, but said on Tuesday that he did not think he would overrule Hewitt's decision.

Meanwhile, the incoming commander, Kenny Foreman, who will take office Thursday, thought differently on the matter. “There's no reason why he shouldn't have a cross,” Foreman said. 

Finally, on Thursday, Russ Hamner, a house committee member at the Legion, said a cross would be made for Muralles in time for the Memorial Day service in 2007.

“We talked it over,” Hamner said. “Pahnke's cross was done by mistake. He wasn't a Shelby County resident. He married a (Shelby County) girl and came up here. They made that cross up and had it up there before they realized it.”

Hamner said Pahnke's cross would stand, and a cross would be added for Muralles. “To make the people happy – if they want that other cross – we'll go ahead and do it,” Hamner said.

However, those two crosses will be the only exceptions, he said. In the future, only Shelby County natives who die in war will be honored with crosses. “We're running out of space for Shelby County (natives),” Hamner said.

But what if someone is born in Rush County, lives there for a year, but then moves to Shelby County and is raised here? “They would be eligible if they moved here at a young age and were raised here,” Hamner said. “It happens quite often with people moving over the county line.”

The local American Legion post has 1,093 members. Hamner said the Memorial Day committee made brand new crosses this year to honor Shelby County's 148 war dead.

The incoming commander of American Legion Post No. 70 said Wednesday that not providing a white cross for the late Sergeant First Class Marcus V. Muralles on Memorial Day resulted from a mix-up.

“It was all a big mix-up on our part,” said Kenny Foreman, who is scheduled to take office today. “But now we’ve got that part ironed out, and we plan on having a cross for him next year.”

Foreman said that he soon plans to visit Muralles’ mother and stepfather, Rosemarie and Bob Dill of Shelbyville, so that he can talk with them and apologize for the mistake. Foreman said the outgoing commander, Paul Veneri, has been unable to visit the Dills, because he has been attending to a sick family member.

Muralles, 33, was one of 16 soldiers killed June 28 when an MH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed while ferrying soldiers to a battle against militants in eastern Afghanistan. Muralles was a medic assigned to 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Hunter Army Air Field, Georiga. Members of the elite 160th SOAR are dubbed the “Night Stalkers.”

Bob and Rosemarie Dill said they were disappointed when they attended Shelbyville’s Memorial Day service and a cross had not been made for Muralles, who was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

Bob Dill retired from the Coast Guard and is a member of the Legion post and of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 2695 — the two organizations that host the heavily attended Memorial Day service on the Shelby County Courthouse lawn each Memorial Day.

The Dills went to the Legion post on Saturday to retrieve a photograph of Muralles that was part of a collage of photographs of service members portrayed inside a glass-covered case. But after speaking to a member of the post who apologized to them, they left the photograph in place.

Some members of the Legion have said that only people who are born and raised in Shelby County should have crosses honoring them if they are killed in battle. However, others have said that being a resident of Shelby County should be sufficient.

Russ Hamner, a house committee member at the Legion, has said that the Legion post made a mistake when it made a cross for Pvt. Shawn D. Pahnke, who grew up in Manhattan, Illinois, south of Chicago, and later married Elisha (Callis) Pahnke, of Shelbyville. Pahnke was killed by a sniper in Iraq on June 16, 2003.

Muralles spent four years of his life in Shelbyville. His daughter, Anna Elise, 10, was born here, and he re-enlisted in the Army from Shelbyville.

On Wednesday night, Billy Taylor, a member of the American Legion, said he worked with Muralles for several years at Libbey Owens Ford, a factory now called Pilkington USA, at 300 Northridge Drive.

“He was a very close friend of mine,” said Taylor, a former sergeant who served in the Army from 1978 to 1981. “Mark was a real quiet, laid-back guy who smiled a lot and cared about everything going on around him.”

Before being asked to join the Night Stalkers, Muralles was a Ranger. “When he found out I was a Ranger also, we hit it off,” Taylor said.

Foreman said the controversy involving Muralles has never happened before, because nearly all of those 148 killed in wartime have been Shelby County natives.

Hamner said that if a service member who is not a Shelby County native is killed in the future, it will be up to the American Legion to decide if that person shall be honored with a cross. Foreman and Hamner both said those would be decided on a case-by-case basis. They said they know of no written rules that specify who shall receive a white cross.

“From now on, I think that if there is any doubt, we need to go to the family and talk to them,” Hamner said.

Foreman pointed out that the post held Muralles’ memorial service at the Legion and presented the family with a flag and a plaque. “We did a good job for them,” he said.

Some in the American Legion believe the post has been unfairly judged for its oversight. For example, one member said that the post has provided funeral details for more than 1,000 veterans in the past 12 years. Last year alone, the post participated in 64 funerals.

Jack Hewitt, the chairman of the memorial committee in charge of the white crosses, has declined comment on the Muralles story.

Foreman said the post has contributed more than $100,000 to a variety of nonprofit groups, including the American Heart Association and Hospice of Shelby County.

Meanwhile, a photographer who takes photos of the graves at Arlington National Cemetery and places them on the Web site,, said she was saddened when she heard about Rosemarie Dill’s plight. “I’m hoping someone sends a kind letter to this woman,” said Holly Holeman. “I know that Rosemarie is a very dear woman.”

Rosemarie Dill has not been to Washington, D.C., since her son was buried. Holeman, who does not charge for her services, takes photos of the graves and e-mails them to families who live far away and can’t visit the graves of their loved ones.

As for Bob Dill, he remains concerned about his wife, who has dropped 30 pounds since Muralles was killed.

At a recent Fort Bragg, N.C., ceremony honoring Muralles, “U.S. Army (officials) treated Rosemarie like they really cared about her son, and it raised her up higher than she’s been in 11 months.”

But the fact that her son was not honored on Memorial Day in Shelbyville brought her right back down, he said.

Dill said he has no plans to withdraw his memberships from the American Legion or the VFW. “I just want them to make it right with Rosemarie,” he said.


Bob Dill, stepfather of Sergeant First Class Marcus V. Muralles, talks to the Shelby County Board 
of Commissioners about naming future streets in the county for fallen soldiers, 
as well as police officers and firefighters, who have died in service to their country.

It's been more than two years since Sergeant First Class Marcus V. Muralles, a Special Operation medic, died when his MH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.

But his mother and stepfather, Rosemarie and Bob Dill, of Shelbyville, carry on an effort they hope will result in more military families experiencing what they have – a visible, constant reminder of their cherished loved one who died while fighting in the war on terror.

That reminder is a street sign named for Muralles that is located in the Martin Estates apartment complex, 2301 Raleigh Blvd., in Shelbyville. The sign on the one-block-long street reads, “SFC Muralles Drive.”

Since Muralles' death, the Dills have been meeting with public officials, real estate companies, developers and practically anyone who will listen to try to encourage communities to name new streets – or rename old streets – in honor of fallen solders, police officers and firefighters who died in the line of duty.

On Monday night, Bob Dill appeared before the regular weekly meeting of the Shelby County Board of Commission-ers. He told them what a blessing SFC Muralles Drive has been to his wife, Rosemarie.

Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia.; Fort Benning, Georgia.; Fort Campbell, Kentucky.; and Fort Bragg, North Carolina. all have held memorial services for Muralles, 33, and the other 15 Special Operations soldiers who died in the June 28, 2005, crash in eastern Afghanistan.

And while the services were moving tributes to the fallen soldiers, Dill said that nothing has meant as much to his wife, Rosemarie, as having a street named for her son. “We want other families to also have that feeling,” Dill said.

Hunter Army Airfield also named a medical aid station after Muralles, who was in the Army's elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. He was assigned to the secretive helicopter unit's 3rd Battalion.

Muralles had been to Iraq twice and was on his third tour of Afghanistan when his helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Using binoculars, the Dills can see the street sign at the Martin Estates apartment complex when they look north across Interstate 74 from their home in Water Dance Apartments, 1700 Morningside Drive. 

The Dills often go visit the street, and Rosemarie takes great pride in picking up litter on the street named for her son.

Bob Dill has talked to several real estate companies and developers in Shelby County about naming future streets for fallen soldiers. Other local fallen soldiers who are honored at Martin Estates include Sgt. Jeremy Wright, who also has a street named after him, and Pfc. Shawn Panke, who has an apartment building named for him.

Bob Dill told the commissioners that he would like to expand the street-naming effort to also include fallen police officers with Shelby County ties, such as Shelby County Sheriff's deputy Stacia Alyea, who was killed April 18, 1996, in a traffic accident while in pursuit of a fleeing drunken driver, and Indiana State Police Trooper Andrew Winzenread, who died on April 25, 1997, after he was struck by an oncoming semi when he had stopped to assist a motorist who had run out of gas.

Bob Dill hopes this street-naming idea will spread, not only in Indiana, but throughout the nation. On a recent trip to Round Rock, Texas, Dill met with the mayor and chief of police of that town to encourage them to adopt a street-naming program. He has also met with the Fraternal Order of Police and other service and memorial organizations.

Everyone he meets expresses support for the idea. “They should be for it because we're honoring people who have sacrificed for this country,” Dill said.

Dill said that communities have to name their streets anyway, so why not name them after fallen heroes, rather than after trees like “Elm” or “Maple”?

Perhaps the biggest gratification Bob and Rosemarie Dill have recently had over SFC Muralles Drive was when the soldier's children, Anna, 12, and Dominic, 6, visited their grandparents this summer in Shelbyville. Without saying a word, they took the children over to Martin Estates and everyone got out of the car at a nearby stop sign. When Anna saw the large street sign with her father's name, she simply remarked, “Cool!”

“Dominic just looked at it,” Dill said. “He couldn't take his eyes off of it.”

Later, he asked Rosemarie if they could return to the site. “Nana, I want to go see my father's street,” Dominic said. Muralles was survived by his wife, Diana, and their two children.

Although no local firefighters in recent history have lost their lives while fighting a fire, Dill said he believes it would be a nice gesture for Shelbyville or Shelby County to be the first community to name a street after a New York firefighter who perished in 9/11. New York is so built up that new streets will not likely be built in the future, he said. “Wouldn't it be nice if Shelby County made a firefighter an honorary citizen and named a street after him?” Dill asked the commissioners. “Then, if his family could not come, we could take pictures (of the street sign) and send it to them.”

The commissioners listened to Dill's proposal and will consider it when any new roads are established in the county.



  • DATE OF BIRTH: 10/05/1971
  • DATE OF DEATH: 06/28/2005








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