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Marine gave of himself in many ways
Camp Williams — It was cold out. The ground was soggy from a day-old snow. And the wind that funnels into the Salt Lake Valley past the Point of the Mountain was picking up.
But when the shots had been fired, taps sounded and flags folded, no one seemed to be in any rush to leave.
They stayed to talk, to embrace, to laugh, to cry, to remember.
And to reconcile somewhat differing ideas of the young man they were about to bury.
To some, Carlos Aragon was a calm, studious and serious boy who always had his eyes on the future. To others he was a boisterous, playful and gregarious teen who lived in the moment because he was all too aware that life is all too brief.
"He was the craziest, wackiest guy in the world," said Brianna Symons.
"He was a quiet, humble young man," said family friend Robert Gardner.
Those who believed Aragon to be an introverted young man sensed that his time in the Marine Corps had made him more outgoing. Those who knew him as an unreserved teen sensed that the military had grounded him, if only just a bit.
And it's likely that everyone was right.
Aragon, who died Monday when he stepped on a pressure-activated bomb while on patrol in a small village in the volatile Helmand province in Afghanistan, had once written that his heroes were "people that give their life for others without hesitation."
And the 19-year-old lance corporal did just that in death. It seems Aragon had been giving of himself -- being the person that others needed him to be without regard for his own desires -- for a long time.
And so those at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ward that Aragon attended with his family saw a young man who was considerate, reverent and always willing to step forward to bring sacrament to homebound ward members. And those in a group of peers that included many who were on the outskirts of the Mormon-influenced culture of Utah County, where he grew up, had a friend who didn't judge them, always hugged them, and stayed up to laugh with them long into the wee hours of the morning.
"We never worried about our daughter when she was with Carlos," said Symons' mother, Ginger. "We knew he wouldn't pull anything, and we knew he would do absolutely anything to protect her."
Brianna Symons remembered that her friend was often apologetic. "Even when he had nothing at all to apologize for," she said. "He just wanted to make sure that he was never doing anything to hurt a friend, I guess."
Aragon's stepfather, Brad Halliday, remembered a day in which he inadvertently had angered the boy, but Halliday didn't realize it because Aragon hid his emotions well.
After Halliday's wife told him what had happened, he approached the teen to apologize, to which Aragon responded with his own apology, saying he had "overreacted."
"And I was like, 'What? What did you do?' " Halliday recalled to the laughs of many fellow mourners.
Gardner said Aragon had never enjoyed speaking in front of fellow church members. But after returning from basic training, he came to church in his Marine Corps uniform and volunteered to present his testimony.
Brianna Symons said her friend had always been quick to make a joke out of just about anything, but after a few months in the Marines, he had "figured out how to take some things more seriously."
As the sun dropped along the horizon and long-haired, pierced and tattooed mourners continued to mingle with the more straight-laced and suited of the bereaved, a heartrending consensus began to materialize: They were all just beginning to know the real Carlos Aragon.