Diego Pongo enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2004 and earned the rank of private first class upon graduating from training. By 2006, he promoted to corporal, and after completing sniper training in 2008, he became a sniper team leader. Pongo deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 and promoted to sergeant before attending training to become a Marine Special Operations Command operator. As a Raider, he served as the regional operations chief and attained the rank of gunnery sergeant.
In Iraq, Pongo was a teacher, assisting the Iraqi Security Forces through tactical training. He simultaneously lead his own unit, Marine Special Operations Team 8232.
Not only was Pongo a teacher, but he was also a scholar. At the time of his death, he was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business entrepreneurship and was trilingual.
In 2017, Pongo met fellow Marine and future-girlfriend Kelsey Baker. In an article in the New York Times, Baker wrote, “Diego struck a rare balance of tenderness and toughness.”
Pongo and Capt. Moises Navas, a fellow Marine Raider, died during a battle with ISIS fighters in the hills of Iraq March 8, 2020. Thousands of Californians lined the streets of Pongo’s hometown of Simi Valley to pay their respects. On Aug. 20, Pongo was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
We honor his service.
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Editor: Jacob Reis