Centennial High School graduate Dane Mortenson, 23, an Iraq War veteran, returned to that war-torn country as a civilian because he couldn't find a job with benefits at home, his friend and family said Tuesday.
He died in a crash while escorting a convoy in Iraq Sunday, 24 days after he started working for a British security firm.
"He had to man up, " said longtime friend Adam Frickey. "His wife was pregnant, he couldn't get a job with benefits, so he did it."
It's unclear how many U.S. civilian workers are killed in Iraq. There appears to be no official record of U.S. civilian contractor deaths in the war.
In May, The New York Times reported that 917 civilian contractors had been killed in Iraq, based on interviews and information from the government.
Mortensen had planned to join the Marine Corps since his sophomore year of high school, said Frickey, who enlisted with him after they graduated from Centennial in 2002.
"We wanted to be the toughest, the best, so we joined the Marines, " Frickey said. "Originally, we had planned to stay for 20 years."
The two served together in the same unit during a tour of duty in Ramadi in central Iraq.
Mortensen was honorably discharged from the Marines as a corporal in 2005.
He loved sports and the outdoors, especially hunting and shooting. He had a lot of pride in America, and "his patriotism was deep, sincere and unwavering, " his family said in his obituary.
Mortensen's survivors include his wife, Megan, whom he met while stationed at Bangor Naval Base in Washington state, and his son, Kyle, who was born in March. The family is establishing a trust fund for Kyle, Rick Mortensen said. Details are pending.
Bethann Stewart: 377-6393