Role at OSU: Student & Athlete
Survived By: Wife and 2 Children
Date of Loss: 14 Nov 2005
Accident Type: IED
Country of Loss: Iraq
Major Raymond J. Mendoza was a man that holistically stood out. He instilled values of leadership and courage into everyone he came into contact with. Ray lived with Kevin Randleman [UFC Heavyweight Champion and Collegiate National Champion] and Mark Coleman [UFC Heavyweight Champion and Olympic Wrestler] who Maj Mendoza would regularly wake up in the early mornings before dawn to lift weights, go to practice, or run stairs at the Shoe. He was just that kind of a guy. He made people want to be better by being there to motivate them.
Maj Mendoza graduated high school from John Adams High School in Queens Borough, New York City. After graduation he attended West Point Academy Preparatory. Shortly after getting there Maj Mendoza transferred to Blair Academy in Blairstwon, N.J. where he wrestled and quickly became the varsity football captain. While at Blair Academy Maj Mendoza’s life was changed. Maj Mendoza’s widow, Karen, put it like this, “The high standards that Ray embraced at Blair made him the leader that he was to his Marines. Ray led by example, always looking down the chain of command to make his Marines better. Blair holds a very dear place in our family's heart.” After Blair, Maj Mendoza soon found his way at the Ohio State University in 1991.
As Maj Mendoza was settling into Ohio State, he had one goal in mind: the 1996 Olympic Games in Athens, GA. On his path to this great goal, Maj Mendoza became a Big Ten Finalist in 1991, the 1991 USA University Freestyle Champion, and the heavyweight runner-up at the Big Ten Championships in 1993. While wrestling his way to the top of the collegiate rankings, Maj Mendoza met the love of his life, Karen, in the dorms on south campus. While a senior at Ohio State, Maj Mendoza believed that he was being called to serve his country like his younger brother, Niola.
Maj Mendoza graduated from Ohio State on a Friday afternoon in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts in History and then left for Marine Corps Officer Candidate School (OCS) on that following Monday morning after graduation. Maj Mendoza successfully completed OCS in August of 1995 and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Maj Mendoza reported to Infantry Officer Course (IOC) directly after commissioning. After completing IOC, Maj Mendoza reported to Echo Company, 1st Marine Regiment/2nd Battalion. Maj Mendoza also went on to wrestle for the All-Marine Wrestling team and became the 1996 Central Region Olympic Trial Greco-Roman Champion at 100kg. This carried Maj Mendoza into becoming an Olympic Alternate at the 1996 Olympic Games in Athens, GA. Maj Mendoza was promoted to First Lieutenant in August of 1997. His next orders came in 1999, where Maj Mendoza was assigned to Marine Barracks, Ground Defense Security Force, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Maj Mendoza was promoted to Captain in October of that same year. After his duty in Cuba, Maj Mendoza was assigned to Marine Corps Combat Development Command (MCCDC). Following MCCDC, Maj Mendoza reported to Ground Schools Expeditionary Warfare School, while there, Maj Mendoza went on his first deployment with Operation Iraqi Freedom/Liberation of Iraq. After his deployment, Maj Mendoza reported back to initial unit, 1st Marine Regiment/2nd Battalion.
Shortly thereafter, Maj Mendoza went on his second deployment with Operation Iraqi Freedom/Transition of Iraq. He came back and was promoted to Maj in 2005. That same year of coming back and being promoted he was assigned to the Marine Expeditionary Unit. Later in the year Maj Mendoza went back to Iraq, where he was killed by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Ubaydi, Al Anbar Province, Iraq on 14 November 2005 while serving as the Commanding Officer of Echo Company 1st Marine Regiment/2nd Battalion, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. He is survived by his Wife, Karen, and two children, daughter, Kiana, and son, Aleksandr. Maj Mendoza was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. He was 37 years old.
Ray’s widow, Karen Mendoza, personally shared with our team that just days after her husband’s death, their youngest, Alekandr, who was 8 at the time, hung a sign on his door that read,” Become A Leader Not a follower.” Ray did more than teach his children about how to lead; he instilled in them the values necessary to carry on and be the leader from the front. This was evident not only in his family life, but in his extraordinary military career as well. Everyone that knew Maj Mendoza says along the same lines of, “He was the greatest there was.” Maj Mendoza touched every student, teacher, professor, Marine, and person he came into contact with.
- Adam Ingram, 2014