Marine remembered as ‘fallen hero’
Marine Sgt. Brian Bull presents a United States flag last Tuesday to Cpl. Aaron Allen’s mother, Kathy, second from left partially hidden, as another Marine presents a flag to Aaron’s father Michael, in sunglasses, during graveside services for Aaron Allen at Oak Hill Cemetery. Also shown are Aaron Allen’s sister, Amy, far left, and his girlfriend, Kelly Zajac, third from left. / Bryan Walton/Staff

If heaven’s streets are guarded by U.S. Marines, as described in the closing lyrics of the Marines’ Hymn, a new sentinel has joined their ranks.

Cpl. Aaron Michael Allen of Buellton was remembered Tuesday as “a fallen hero,” who gave his life for his Marine brothers and his country, in a funeral Mass at Solvang’s Old Mission Santa Ines.

Allen, 24, was killed Nov. 14 in Iraq’s Anbar Province by a roadside bomb, an improvised explosive device or IED, during his second Iraq tour.

Born May 29, 1984, Allen attended Jonata School in Buellton from kindergarten through eighth grade and then moved on to Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, where he was a member of the school’s football, baseball and wrestling teams.

A 2002 graduate, he is the school's first alumnus to die while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

He died five weeks before he was due to come home in time for Christmas.

He was assigned to the Marine Corps Security Forces 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, at Camp Pendleton near San Diego and had been previously assigned in Georgia and Virginia during his enlistment, which began in March 2004 and was due to end in March 2009.

Allen has been described by family and friends as fun-loving and outgoing, with a mischievous side.

In the days after his death was announced before the kickoff of the Nov. 14 SYVUHS football game, American flags throughout the Santa Ynez Valley have flown at half-staff in his honor.

On Tuesday, Father Michael Mahoney presided over the 10 a.m. Mass that drew a standing-room-only crowd of hundreds of mourners into the church and plaza area in front of the Mission.

Allen’s casket, draped with the American flag, was brought into the church by a Marine Corps honor guard to the hymn “Amazing Grace.” They were followed by his family members and members of the Santa Ynez Valley posts of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Mahoney described Allen as “a fallen hero” who dedicated his “life of love and service to his country,” and didn’t give his life in vain.

In his eulogy, Mahoney quoted John 15:13, which says “No one shows greater love than when he lays down his life for his friends.”

“Aaron will live on,” Mahoney said. “His memory will live on in the hearts and minds of the people here in the Santa Ynez Valley.”

Allen was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Ballard after the service at the Mission.

Standing in his Marine dress uniform after the Mass, Marine Reserve Sgt. Major Jeff McKeone of the 5th Battalion, 14th Marines and a Santa Ynez Valley resident, said he’d met Allen on a couple of occasions, including a celebration of the Marine Corps birthday.

McKeone described Allen as a “hard-charging Marine” who would never back down — the epitome of what it is to be a Marine.

“God, corps and country,” he said. “Pretty much in that order.”

Allen is survived by his mother, Cathy Allen, and sister Amy Allen, who live in Buellton.

He is also survived by his father, Michael Allen of Highland, Calif., grandmother Linda Fenton of Indio, Calif., his half-brother Michael Allen of Seattle and half-sister Tamie Anderson of Ontario, Calif., and girlfriend Kelly Zajac of Buellton, who was to be his fiancee when he got back.

2 funds established in Allen’s memory

n To memorialize the late Marine Cpl. Aaron Allen of Buellton on the streets of his hometown, John Bull, the father of one of Allen’s closest friends, hopes to erect a permanent memorial on Buellton’s Avenue of Flags.

Bull, the father of Allen’s lifelong friend Brian Bull, has established a memorial fund in Allen’s memory at the Wells Fargo bank branch at 222 E. Highway 246 in Buellton. To donate, just mention the Aaron Allen Memorial Fund.

To reach Bull, call 686-1944.

In addition, a fund has been set up in Allen’s name to help children in the Santa Ynez Valley who can’t afford to play in the local youth football league, where Allen and his friends started playing the sport as children.

Donations to the Cpl. Aaron Allen YFL Fund can made at any Santa Barbara Bank and Trust branch.

jramos@syvnews.com

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