Patrick M. Rapicault, Captain
march 27, 1970-november 15, 2004
Captain. Patrick Rapicault was born a French citizen. He died an American.
He was born on the island of Martinique and moved to the French Riviera at age 5. He immigrated to the United States as a teenager. It was during his high school years in Mississippi that he developed his distinctive accent—part French and part southern. But “Frenchy,” as he was known to many, was proud of his mastery of English as a second language, and especially of a writing award he won.
At about 25, Patrick Rapicault became an American citizen, and was thus able to pursue his dream of becoming an officer.
Rapicault attended Delta State University in Mississippi and joined the Marine Corps Reserve. Upon graduating, he converted to active duty. In 1997, he completed Officer Candidate School and reported to Camp Pendleton in California. The following year, he graduated first in his class from Army Ranger School.
Patrick Rapicault was “gung-ho” about the military, and about his deployment to Iraq, his wife, Vera said. “He ate, drank and slept the military,” she said. “He was the kind of man who wanted to be in the military, the kind of man you would want to be out there (in Iraq).” She said her husband had been in Iraq once before, and was injured with second degree burns in a bombing.
The widow last spoke to her husband when his phone call woke her at 12:04 a.m. on Monday. “He said, ‘I was thinking about you and I love you with all my heart,’ ” she said.
In late October 2004 in Ramadi, Anbar province, 2/5 Weapons “Whiskey” Co. was tasked with, among other things, patrolling the main thoroughfare, known as Route Michigan, which almost guaranteed they’d get attacked. Rapicault, headed a quick-reaction team from the 2/5 weapons company from his armored Humvee call sign “Whiskey Six”, along with Cpl. Marc Ryan, a steely-eyed South Jersey native; Cpl. Lance Thompson, who hailed from Indiana farm country; and Lance Cpl. Ben Nelson, a Californian.
Late one night, with a reporter sitting behind the driver in “Whiskey Six” Whiskey Company rode out to support other Marines. Rapicault was behind Thompson, who manned the radio, and Nelson was in the gunner’s turret. “We’ll probably get hit,” Ryan said. Ryan had already served a bruising tour in Ramadi with the 2/4 Marines, then he re-upped and came back after spending only two weeks at home.
Indeed, Ryan was right. Whiskey Company was ambushed twice that night. Whiskey Six was very nearly disabled by roadside bombs that detonated a few feet from the front tires. The wheels were flattened, the windshield spider-webbed and covered with engine oil. When Rapicault bellowed at Ryan to get moving, Nelson had to shout down directions so he could steer to safety.
The reporter later described the Marines, “On the trip, bombs exploded and rockets whizzed by. Rapicault and his men were fearless. None of it fazed them -- even when a bomb exploded just as a Humvee rode over the blast. Rapicault was calm. His men laughed. They seemed indestructible”.
“You have to get over your feelings and keep on pushing, just for the simple reason that you have another 170 Marines to take care of and make sure they come back,” Rapicault told Time Magazine. Rapicault’s Humvee was struck by mortar fire and disabled during a patrol. It was the sixth time he had been hit, the article said. None of his men were killed in that attack, but Rapicault was prepared to give his life for his country. “It is a daily hit and run,” Rapicault later told Agence France-Presse.
On November 15, 2004, a suicide car bomber rammed Whiskey Six, killing Patrick Rapicault, 34; Marc Ryan, 25; and Lance Thompson, 21. Ben Nelson was seriously wounded but survived.
The Marines awarded Rapicault a Silver Star after his death, the military's third highest honor. His citation reads:
“From 24 September to 15 November 2004. Captain Rapicault courageously led his Marines on the streets of Ar Ramadi, Iraq through 50 firefights and 27 improvised explosive device ambushes. Always leading from the front, he directed the fire and maneuver of his company with complete disregard for his own personal safety. Despite being the first Marine in the Battalion wounded and his company suffering the heaviest casualties during daily street fighting, Captain Rapicault always displayed an infectious enthusiasm that motivated every Marine to fight hard and recover quickly from battle. On every mission, Captain Rapicault's intuitive and calm combat leadership ensured success on the battlefield, with limited damage to vehicles and friendly casualties. He gallantly gave his life in the cause of freedom. Captain Rapicault's bold leadership, courageous actions, and complete dedication to duty reflected great credit upon him and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service”
“I was 200 meters away when he passed. It was hard because he was ‘that man’,” remembered 1st Lt. Shawn M. Maurer, an infantry officer who served with Rapicault in Iraq. “My fondest memory of him was his courage, you could see it in his eyes. I could look in his eyes and everything was going to be okay because he was the best Marine Corps officer I’ve ever served with,” Maurer said.
Patrick Rapicault was an honest man, his wife, Vera, said, and a tough guy with a big heart, one who saw the Marines he led as “his boys.”
“I’ve never known anyone quite like him,” she said, “and I don’t think I ever will again. … Even though I knew he loved me and loved life, he was willing to put down his life for our country,” she said. “It puts him in a totally different category. … He was fearless.”
Rapicault was the 97th service member killed in Iraq to be buried at Arlington.