Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Marine Corps Veteran Max Galeai, who was killed in action serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Max Galeai grew up in American Samoa. He attended high school there and was class valedictorian. In an interview with the StarBulletin.com, his sister recalled him growing up as a quiet boy, who was nerdy, always into his books, and never played sports.
After high school, Galeai left the South Pacific to attend the U.S. Naval Academy and later transferred to Oregon State University. While at Oregon, he joined the Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program and became student battalion commander. In 1988, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree and commissioned as second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Galeai then went to Quantico, Virginia, where he attended both The Basic School and the Infantry Officers Course. After he completed training, Galeai went to the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
He would go on to serve in the Marine Corps for 20 years, including two tours in Iraq where his first deployment was to support Operation Desert Storm. As a first lieutenant in Iraq, Galeai served as platoon commander. After this deployment, he served in Virginia, California and Okinawa, Japan, among other locations. In 2007, he became commanding officer of more than 1,000 Marines of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, 3rd Marine Division, at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
In February 2008, Galeai deployed for the second time to Iraq, this time supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom for a seven-month tour. A significant focus of his unit’s mission was to help transfer power back to the Iraqis. His team spent time training the Iraqis as police officers, and Galeai worked with local leaders. During this time, Galeai’s former commander, Maj. Mike Ettore was worried about him and shared his final communication with Galeai.
“Max, I know you’re on top of things over there, but please make sure everyone stays vigilant,” Ettore wrote. “There are bad people living very close to your unit who stay awake at night thinking of new ways to kill Marines.”
The official handover of security responsibility to the Iraqis was June 28, 2008. Two days before this, Galeai and two others from his unit attended a meeting with a local mayor, several tribal sheikhs, two interpreters and other community leaders in the town of Karmah. Among the group was a man in an Iraqi police uniform dressed like the men Galeai’s unit had been training; however, the man was a suicide bomber. He detonated an explosive vest he was wearing, killing Galeai, the two Marines from his unit and over 20 people in total. Galeai was 42 years old.
Galeai rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He received numerous awards and medals including two Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart and five Meritorious Service Medals.
We honor his service.
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Writer: Michael Veronda
Editors: Amra Kandic, Amanda Baker and Brooke Wolfenbarger
Fact checker: Caroline Seyer
Graphic artist: Helena Strohmier