MANTECA — Charles O. Palmer II was remembered Wednesday as a selfless person who never spoke badly about anybody and gave his life for a war he believed in.
At least 500 people attended a funeral for the Marine corporal at First Assembly of God Church on Wednesday. Police limited a procession to his burial site at Burwood Cemetery in Escalon to 100 vehicles.
Palmer, 36, was the first person from Manteca to be killed in the war in Iraq. He died May 5 while on patrol in Anbar province when a roadside bomb exploded.
His brother, Jason Palmer, trembled with emotion as he recalled his brother as someone who could take pride in himself.
"I think about Charles in that way," he said. "Being as close as I was to him, I never heard Charles talk bad about anyone. He would come home with a black eye and a fat lip and wouldn't say what happened. I would find out at school the next day, though."
He graduated from Manteca High School in 1989. Photos flashed on screens showing him in his uniforms for cross country and track, wrestling, football and band.
He joined the Marines in December 1992 and served in Kuwait. He left the Marines after four years.
In December 2005, while working at a powder paint coating company in North Carolina, Palmer decided to re-enlist in the Marines "because it is home," the 34-year-old wrote in a letter as part of the re-enlistment process. "The camaraderie, loyalty and comfort level is not found outside of the Marines."
He pressured the Marines to send him to Iraq despite an ankle injury in basic training that initially had kept him home, said his father, Charles Palmer.
He was assigned to the 8th Communications Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group in Camp Lejeune, N.C.
"His vibrant enthusiasm for life and for his fellow Marines was infectious," said Lt. Col. Michael M. Sweeney, commanding officer of the 8th Communication Battalion, in a letter read by Major Guy Cooley. "And he made everyone around him better."
His friend since grade school, David Jones, called Palmer a hero.
"Charles was a man who was unselfish and he sacrificed," Jones said. "He accepted the dangers, and he fought for this great country and what it stands for."
Volunteers from the Chamber of Commerce and the city of Manteca put up 2,500 flags early Wednesday, lining several streets throughout town.
The Stockton commander of the California Highway Patrol presented Palmer's wife, Tanya Palmer of Camp Lejeune, with a U.S. flag that flew over the state capitol.
The Marines honored Palmer with a rifle salute and awarded his family his Purple Heart medal.