Ryan J. Cantafio understood the dangers of serving in Iraq. Two close friends had already died there. The week before his death, he e-mailed his family and said he’d had a close call. “The last we heard he was up for a Purple Heart because his troops had been ambushed and he had to shoot four Iraqis but he saved his troops,” said his stepmother, Bobbie Jo Cantafio. The 22-year-old Marine reservist from Beaver Dam, Wis., was killed on Thanksgiving by a roadside bomb in Iraq’s Anbar province. He was based in Chicago and is survived by his wife, Amanda. The Marine, who loved golf, had many friends and a dry sense of humor, his grandmother recalled. “He was also very caring, especially with older people,” Rose Cantafio said. Eloise Cantafio agreed, calling her great-nephew a “good boy.” “He was very dedicated to what he was doing,” she said.
Lance Corporal Cantafio, of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. A gentle, caring young man who loved to camp, fish, bike, draw, play his guitar, watch the Green Bay Packers play football and play with his dog, Clyde. More than that though, he was devoted to his family and his wife, Amanda. They met while both working at a local grocery store. He was leaving as she was walking across the parking lot. Their eyes met, and his truck stalled three times. He was 16 years old, she was 18. Ryan would buy her gifts, anything from an expensive necklace to a chocolate bar, with notes attached that said “I love you.” They got engaged a little over a year later and were married on February 11, 2003. Together they bought a house and he went to work at his father’s auto body shop. They wanted to start a family and had picked out baby names, but Ryan had joined the Marine Corps Reserves on September 11, 2001, and his unit was activated shortly after they married. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th marine Division, based in Chicago, Illinois. On Thanksgiving night 2004, Ryan volunteered for a special assignment near Fallujah, Iraq. His Humvee was ambushed and he fought hard to save the lives of his fellow Marines from behind his machine gun on top of the vehicle. Ryan lost his life, but saved the lives of the other four. Ryan’s father renamed his auto body shop afterwards, to Ryan’s Auto and in October 2008, a section of Madison Street in Beaver Dam was renamed “Ryan Cantafio Way” to honor Ryan. Ryan was good friends with Sgt Kirk Straseskie who died in Iraq the previous year.