Marine Corporal Who Died Surfing in Japan Had 'Respect and Admiration' of Leaders, Peers

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Hospitalman takes the temperature Rene Ponceavalos USS New Orleans
Hospitalman 2nd Class Ronel Balisay, aboard USS New Orleans (LPD 18), takes the temperature of Lance Cpl. Rene Ponceavalos, an engineer equipment operator with Combat Logistic Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Aug. 18, 2020. (Audrey M. C. Rampton/U.S. Marine Corps)

The Marine Corps identified a noncommissioned officer who died Sunday after going missing while surfing in Japan as Cpl. Rene PonceAvalos.

PonceAvalos, a 22-year-old engineer equipment operator, joined the service in 2019 and quickly rose through the ranks "with the respect and admiration of peers and superiors alike," his commanding officer said. He was a member of Combat Logistics Battalion 31, which was assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Okinawa, and was meritoriously promoted to corporal in December.

"Always eager to volunteer for both operations and community service, his motivation and spirit represented the best the Marine Corps has to offer," Lt. Col. Stanley P. Calixte, CLB-31's commanding officer, said of PonceAvalos in a statement. "Loved by his fellow Marines and sailors at Combat Logistics Battalion 31, he will be greatly missed."

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PonceAvalos died at Nakagami Hospital at about 6 p.m. Sunday. He'd been surfing near Ikei Island with five Marines while on liberty when he was separated from the others at about 3 p.m.

The Marines surfing with PonceAvalos contacted local authorities and the Japanese Coast Guard for help in finding their friend. He was located unresponsive about 100 yards from the shore by members of the Japanese Coast Guard.

He was transported to the hospital by ambulance, where he later died.

"On behalf of Combat Logistics Battalion 31, we extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Corporal Rene PonceAvalos," Calixte said.

PonceAvalos enlisted into the Marine Corps out of Portland, Oregon. He attended Westview High School, where he was a member of the varsity wrestling team.

Military officials are investigating the surfing accident. Ikei Island is a popular swimming spot east of central Okinawa that's accessible by bridge. Sections of the Ikei Island chain are listed among the most dangerous water locations in Okinawa.

PonceAvalos is the second Marine to die in a surfing accident in seven months. In August, 1st Lt. Clark Perkins, a 25-year-old student pilot with Marine Aviation Training Support Group 22, died after a surfing mishap in Corpus Christi, Texas.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Related: Marine Lieutenant Who Died in Surfing Accident Was 'Rising Star'

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