Fallen Heroes of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Remembering the servicemembers who died in the service of their country.

Marine Capt. Aaron J. Contreras


31, of Sherwood, Oregon.
Killed in a UH-1N Huey helicopter crash in southern Iraq. He was assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA)-169, Marine Aircraft Group-39, Marine Corps Air Station, Camp Pendleton, California. Died on March 30, 2003.

Please send information, photos, and corrections for Marine Capt. Aaron J. Contreras.

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"Dog, I. Love you and I miss you so much."
Your brother

"Ten years have gone by and I still cry every time I think about you. I miss you so much. You were my best friend and brother all in one. I think about you almost every day and wonder how Janelle and the family are doing. Janelle, Aidan,Rose,and Ashley if you come across this someday, please write me. Send me pictures! gary.morgan@kiewit.com"
Gary of Chicago,Illinois, USA

"Capt Contreras,
You are still greatly missed. Continued blessings to you and your family. It was an honor to serve with you as a Viper. Semper Fi,"
LtCol John and Deena Neville of Patuxent River, MD

"I was there that night and saw the helo crash. A sadness hit me. The horror of war. Another fallen Marine. I will never forget Capt Contreras. Although I did not know him well I would see him around the area. Rest in peace.

Semper Fi sir.

John Ortiz
MSgt USMC (Ret)
OIF-1"
John Ortiz of Oceanside, Ca

"Each time I am asked about serving in Iraq, my thoughts return to the unfaithful night of the ARFF Marines trying to assist you during the war. It was something that will stay with me the rest of my life. We had know way of knowing any names at the time it was you. Upon finding out, I was deeply saddened to realize it was someone I knew personally really bought tears to my eyes. I remember you and I coaching Aidan and Michael in the youth basketball leagues. It was a joy to assist our sons learn basketball and grow. You are now guarding the pearly gates of heaven.

Semper Fi,
Vincent Alexander
Msgt. USMC (ret)"
Vincent Alexander of Oceanside, CA

"Each time I am asked about serving in Iraq, my thoughts do not return to the unfaithful night of trying to assist you during the war. It was something that will stay with me the rest of my life. Then a few days later to find it was you my Marines were fighting really bought tears to my eyes. I remember you and I coaching Aidan and Michael in the youth basketball leagues. It was a joy to assist our sons learn basketball and grow. You are now guarding the pearly gates of heaven.

Semper Fi,
Vincent Alexander
Msgt. USMC (ret)"
Vincent Alexander of Oceanside, CA

"05-30-2010…Aaron & Janelle, I attended a great Memorial Day Service at church today. I’ve been thinking of you, Janelle, and your family all day today. God Bless those that have given their tomorrows for our todays. You, my brother, are a hero! God Bless you and those that sacrificed their lives for our country!

For the Joy of the Lord is your strength, do not be dejected or sad… NEH 8:10"
Rick Newnum of Kernersville, NC

"wow.... I came across Aaron's name in a listing of fallen soldiers, and it just struck a chord with me, so i did an internet search to see who he was. I am amazed. I'm sorry I didn't have the privilege of knowing Aaron. He is clearly loved, respected and looked up to. I was crying reading some of the comments, then I found out that he also is a Christian, and read a comment that made me laugh about him singing "oh where is my hairbrush" from veggie tales, as my husband does the same. Well, I may not have had the privilege of knowing him here in this life, but I know I'll get to meet him in heaven. My prayers are with his family, We lost first child, our infant daughter, my precious Jovie, 3 years ago, and i know from experience that prayers are still envied even years after our loved ones are gone to be with Jesus. God Bless, 2-19-2010"
Rebekah Spear of Menifee, CA

"Another 4th of July, another birthday that will come and go, but memories that will live on in our hearts forever!! Missing Aaron greatly!"
Jenkins Family of Serving Proudly - USAF - CO Springs, CO

"To the family of Capt. Contreras,
I apologize it had taken so long for me to write you and offer my condolences for your loss. Every time I try to write on this I get choked with emotion and feel what I say doesn't give justice to Capt. Contreras. I was there the night of the crash. I was a young lance corporal in the crash fire and rescue platoon. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about that night. Semper fi, sir, and rest in peace. I can be reached at sandusky_m01@yahoo.com if you would like to chat."
Sgt Sandusky of Indianapolis IN

"I will NEVER forget you. Respect to you as a person and an Officer in the USMC. Semper Fi Devil!!!"
Cpl Mullins/HMLA 169 '03 of San Diego, Ca

"3-30-2009
Thinking of you my dear cousin. With all my love."
Jane of Houston, Texas

"It may surprise many that my involvement in the new grandstand project at Sherwood High School had little to do with the benefit to athletics at Sherwood High School. I personally got involved because of the sacrifice that Marine Captain Aaron J. Contreras made in service to our country in the war on terrorism when he lost his life in Iraq on March 30, 2003.
I never had the privilege to meet Captain Contreras but after all he is a member of the Bowmen family so I feel like I know him. My son Josh, a proud Bowmen sophomore was born on March 30th. So on that day when my family and I celebrate his life, I am and will forever be reminded of Captain Contreras.
In a recent newspaper article in the Oregonian, the September 11, 2008 edition much was made about how this magnificent community asset would be paid for. Not to say that isn’t important but a great opportunity was missed to share why this project is so important to our community. You see, Captain Aaron J. Contreras represented the best Sherwood has to offer. The facility is not about athletics for me. The facility is a fitting and appropriate way to honor the memory of a great American who called Sherwood Oregon his home. In the big picture what our community has done in constructing this Grandstand and how it is paid for pales in comparison with the sacrifice that Aaron’s family made. To his Mother and father, siblings, his wife and children and extended family Sherwood Oregon will be forever grateful to the commitment Captain Contreras made to his City, his State and his Nation.
I am proud to have participated in a small way to bring honor to his name and the Contreras family with the construction of Aaron J. Contreras Memorial Stadium."
Jim Patterson of Sherwood Oregon

"I can't believe it's been 5 years. It doesn't seem possible. I think of you and your family everyday. I remember visiting you in AZ when Aidan was just able to walk and hold a basketball. The memories are good. Thank you for your sacrifice and touching my life the way you did. You will NEVER be forgotten."
Christine Marleau of Damascus, OR

"Its been 5 years, and I still remember hugging you in your kitchen before you left, like it was yesterday. You were such an amazing man. Will never forget Catalina with Janelle!! And never will forget you."
L&C of New Market, MN

"Aaron,

It's been 5 years now and we still think of you every day. Thank you for touching our lives and for leaving such a lasting impression.

Ryan and Erika Hart 3.30.08"
Erika Hart of Richlands, NC

"Aaron-Wanted to let you know that I have followed your lead. You made an impression on me that you probably did not realize at the time, as I did not either. The two years that I knew you at ERAU were not easy for either one of us, but your plate was full. You handled the unexpected with maturity and confidence. Your moral compass was strong, that was what impressed me most about you. To finish up at ERAU and be commissioned in the USMC was a tribute to your hard work and Janelle's support.

I talked to your parents shortly after your death, I hope they as well as Janelle and the kids have found what peace they can. I will always remember flying down to Russ's wedding in the 172 RG, remember my dive-bomber approach? I still laugh when I remember that. Anyway your picture is on my mantle, and now my wife and 3 kids know about my friend.

After Sept 11th, I started thinking about how to make a difference. Your passing two years later spurred me into action. I know it sounds strange, but I gave up my corporate career and became a police officer because I wanted to serve, and to help my country in some small way. My memories of you and your strong convictions along these lines kept me going when things got rough. Anyway, the day I graduated from the police academy, I had you in my thoughts and prayers..I know you are looking down on your family and watching out for them still, goodbye my friend..

Marty Hynes"
Marty Hynes of Brentwood, CA

"Aaron, it's almost the end of the year and almost Janelle's birthday. I can't help to think of the surprise birthday party you gave her in '02. It was such a fun and memorable night and Ryan and I still talk about it from time to time. You sang karaoke all night long! Every time I hear Candlebox I think of you. You are truely missed my friend and you will always be in our hearts. By the way, if Ryan and I have a daughter we plan on naming her Erin after you."
Erika Hart of Richlands, NC

"We are doing a piece about Aaron and the american way of our soilders in the January school paper at SHS. Please read and respect"
Current SHS Senior of Sherwood Oregon

"I don't know who all knows this but, Sherwood High School is building a new stadium. "The Aaron J. Contreras Memorial Stadium." We are doing lots of fundraisers for the 1.5 million that is needed (we are halfway there!). Please contact SHSstadium@comcast.net if you are interested in more information. Thank you, and God bless the Contreras Family."
SHS Mom of Sherwood, OR

"Happy Birthday to the one we miss like no other. We are also able to celebrate our freedom because of such selfless sacrifices such as yours."
Jenkins Family of Alabama

"July 4, 2007
To the family of Aaron J. Contreras. Aaron gave the ultimate sacrifice and will be held in the hearts of Americans forever. I cannot and will not let our fallen heroes be forgotten. My deepest sympathy to you."Some gave all."
Peggy Childers
"Don't Let The Memory Of Them Drift Away"
www.IraqWarHeroes.org"
Peggy Childers of Carson City, NV

"rick, if you look this up - I thank yo You so much for your message - email me, I would love to chat. Janelle, janellec@bendbroadband.com"

"The amount of how much we miss you does not change on this day, it just brings it a little closer to the surface..."
Jenkins of Alabama

"It's Memorial Day, 2007. Aaron, Janelle, we prayed for you and your family yesterday in church. I was Aaron and Janelle's roomate in college at Embry-Riddle. It seems so long ago... Aidan came along, Aaron was so proud. Aidan, your name was almost "Blade", has your mom ever told you that story? Those were great days...

Aaron, not long after your passing, your co-pilot came home to North Carolina to the same small town that I live in now. I met him at the airport and thanked him for his service to our country. I asked him if he flew with you on that final flight. He looked shocked and said yes and then I told him we were friends and roomates in college. I ate dinner with him and met his parents. His parents realized how blessed thay were to have their son and they prayed for Janelle and the kids.

Aaron, you are missed by countless people. Thank you for your service and sacrifice. God Bless you Janelle! And God Bless your family."
Rick Newnum of Kernersville, NC

"Capt. Contreras,
Sir, I would like to say thank you to you and the two other Marines who were killed in that crash for your service and sacrifice for our Country. And to your family and loved ones, I wish to extend my deepest sympathy.

Semper Fi Devil Dog!"

"Not a day goes by that we don’t miss you Aaron. You are a true hero in our household! We talk of your bravery quite often. We send our love to your family and our friends."
Ron Engel & Crystal Robbins of Tigard, OR formerly of Sherwood, OR

"Aaron,

I think of you often. I would have never told you growing up but I looked up to you. You always made the right choice and this made you a leader. You made those around you a better person. I remember when you were worried that members of our basketball team would get into trouble on new years eve so you called a mandatory all night party at your house. You were destined to be a Father and a Marine. Thank you Aaron. I will make sure that my daughter knows who you were and what you stood for."
Don Livingston of Sherwood, Oregon

"I salute you, Aaron, for your bravery, for your love, for your faith. You have been in Heaven 3 years now seeing the awesome face of our God. I know you are happy. We miss you and love you. Please keep praying for us."
Carol Ann of NYC & Sherwood, OR

"Thank you Aaron for being such a loving and caring Christian. Thank you for setting an example of how fathers should love their family. I miss you everyday."
UJ of Sherwood, Oregon

"Janelle,....I just met you in psy class last quarter...what an amazing journey you are traveling....I hope our sharing has helped...it has me...I am glad there is that eye-to-eye understanding between us....you are traveling well, lady, be proud and look at those beautiful children you both created! Aaron was your husband and half of only YOUR heart. See ya next week!!"
Marty of Terrebonne, OR

"Wow. I never even knew this site existed. I mean I did, but I think I'm getting old enough to actually realize what it is and what it means. I was just reading all of the comments everyone has made. I just wanted to say how much they mean to me and my family. It's been three years now. Every single day I think about what he would be doing if he were still here. Not a day goes by that we don't think about him and miss him. Love you pops."
Aidan (son) of Bend, OR

"Dog,

I miss you from the time I get up, until the time I go to sleep. Love you bro."
Spagman of Seattle, WA

"To the family of Aaron Contreras. I just returned from a memorial service for the 3rd anniversary of the Iraq War. Everyone was given the name of a soldier who had sacrificed their life in Iraq. I received the name of Aaron Contreras. When I saw that he was 31 years old when he died it broke my heart and I wondered if he had a young family and now from reading this website I see that he had a wife and 3 young children. It also looks like there are many others who also loved him. I want you to know that I now feel a connection and will have Aaron in my thoughts and prayers forever. I am a nurse and work with Veterans every day, I have great admiration for the sacrifices that military families make for all of us. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you"
Jane Hafner of Fairway, ks

"Just thinking of you. The boys and I were watching an old Veggie Tales tape. On it was "Where Is My Hairbrush." I remember like it was yesterday, you singing that song. Before children, I thought you were crazy singing that song over and over and OVER. Now I laugh with you, it is stuck in my head too!!! Memories, all good, mean so much!! To all the brothers, we have talked (not enough) to Janelle and your Mom and Dad. However, I just wanted to let you know that we think and pray for all of you often."
Frankie of Alabama

"Dear Capt. Aaron J. Contreras,
I know you'll be able to read this up there in heaven so I just wanted to pass this story on to you.
I also am a Captain and a helicopter pilot in the Marine Corps and have recently returned from Iraq where I was wounded in combat. This weekend I was in Washington DC where I visited the World War II Memorial. I was wearing my Delta uniform and unfortunately walking with crutches (due to my injury). While I was walking around the Memorial your mom and dad approached me and identified themselves as the parents of a Marine who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving in Iraq. I spoke with your mom and dad and I just wanted to tell you that they looked like they were doing well. Your parents are so very proud of you. Your dad carried a gentle smile yet looked strong when we spoke of you. Your mom was encouraged by the uniform and had a particular way of making me feel comfortable even though I could tell that she misses you dearly. Both your parents were strong and I could tell that they were the parents of a Marine. Aaron, I guess I just wanted to tell you that your parents looked like they were doing well and that they miss you. I thought of them for the rest of the weekend and they're in my prays. God Bless.
September 19th, 2005"
Capt Raymond S. Lopes USMC of Staten Island, New York

"8/18/05 - I didn't know Aaron as well as I would have liked, but I did see first hand his love for his family. Janelle, I think of you and the kids often. I wonder how you cope and deal.

Your "cub scout" family."
Gail (Wade's Auntie) of San Diego, CA/USA

"Aaron,
I have read this page so many times trying to find the strength to write what I am feeling. I guess that is why it has taken me over a year of just reading. Every time I try, the words turn to tears.
This past week we took an emergency trip because we thought "Granny" was going to pass away. She is doing better, mostly from prayer, and who knows, maybe a little help from you :) ! It has been very difficult, because, besides you, Jeff has not really had to experience the loss of someone so close. We treasure every moment that we had with you. Jeff, still to this day tears up with just a mention of your name. The other day I had a garage sale I sold some free-weights that were in a box. Jeff realized they were gone, reminded me that you gave them to him. I could tell that it was not a huge deal, he was just a little saddend because you had once owned them. At Jeff's promotion ceremony Janelle gave Jeff one of your Captain bars and I guarantee they will have a "Marine" shine forever.
We also think of you and Janelle on a daily basis with our little ones, Nicholas and Aaron. I guess you probably know how our Aaron got his name :) (It was actually a consideration for Nicholas if he would have been a girl, we wanted to use the name then as well, to let you know how much you meant to us) You both did, and you know Janelle continues to do, such a wonderful job with Aidan, Taylor and Ashley. We are constantly asking ourselves, "What would Aaron and Janelle do in this situation?"
This weekend "July 4th", like every July 4th, we will continue to celebrate the day of your birth and your life. Your soul continues to touch us and remind us that our God is truly amazing. We love and miss you ever so much."
Frankie, Jeff, Nicholas and Aaron Jenkins, USAF family of Prattville, AL

"Aaron - We honor you this weekend. I wish we could have known you better. Your wife and children are always in our thoughts. Don and Carma Corcoran"
Don/Carma Corcoran of Portland, OR

"Aaron,

It has now been 2 years, and Tom told me about going to visit you at the cemetery last week. 5 helicopters flew overhead - I hope you know how that comforted him, and your other brothers, and your parents. To know that you are here, and that you will never forget us, as we will never forget you. I'm sorry I could not be there, but I think about you every day. We all miss you so much, and will love you forever."
Leanne Contreras (Sister-in-Law) of Walnut Creek, CA

"I never knew Aaron, but have found out, from the articles that he was a wonderful amn who loved everything about life. There is a beautiful tribute to Aaron at Oregon State University, and it reminded me how proud I am to be an American. God bless."
Margaret of OR

"I never knew Aaron, but I grew up with his wife Janelle. I ran into Janelle and their three children at the airport on their way home from Aaron's funeral.
What an amazing family. Janelle is a very strong woman and will teach her children to be the same. Aaron must be looking down and smiling to know that Janelle will teach his children how to love unconditionally. I am so proud of Janelle. Thank you for allowing Aaron to serve our country. We will never forget him my friend."
Nycole Peraza of Vancouver, Washington, USA

"To the friends and family of Aaron J contreras:
My sincere condolences for your tragic loss. My husband Justin Linden was also KIA in Iraq, and it kills me to know how many of us have had to bare this horrible pain. Your loved ones sacrifice is greatly appreciated by so many great Americans. Aaron will live on forever in your hearts."
Sarah Linden of Portland, OR USA

"RIP Sir"
Petty Officer Cawthon of RTC Great Lakes, IL

"I am really sorry for your friends that you lost and I'd like to thank the nice people that are making the sculpture and the quilt. I would like to join in with them to make something for you and your family."
7th grade student of Barker Middle School

"I am so sorry for the loss of your husband. I am sure he was a very wonderful dad and a wonderful man. For the children I am truly sorry for your fathers death. I would never be the same if my father died. It would change my life forever. So from the bottom of my heart I am so very sorry for your pain and suffering."
7th grade student of Barker middle school

"Aaron, I remember all of those nights a CCD. I remember all of those nights at your parents house watching football tapes. I remember first playing soccer and then football. Those times do not seem that long ago. I will miss you my friend."
Nathan Bechtold of Sherwood, OR

"We Will NEVER FORGET !"
Please KNOW so many people share your sadness, and we are remembering your family in your loss and your deep grief. Your HERO, Aaron, will be remembered by name. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. God Bless you. Pat & Sandi Breckenridge from Montana "

"To the parents of Aaron,

Your light shines bright. Your courage through this time is an inspiration to all. You have endured the event that all parents fear most. You are among the finest of God's creatures."
Michael Bowman of Portland Oregon

"To the Family of Capt. Contreras,

It is with a heavy heart that I write these words to you and other family members of Marines who have fallen. I come from a long family line of Marines; I too am a Marine Corps veteran. His service to his Country and his Corps will live forever in the minds of his fellow Marines all over this country.

While I never personally met this Marine, every Marine is my brother and it is with love and respect to his family that I say to them the words of retired GySgt Ermey, "The Marine Corps lives forever, and that means you live forever."

God Bless and Semper Fidelis"
Rob of Iowa

"Gosh, I still remember you as a kid, and your mom calling you "ponson." You were quiet and thoughtful, and its these same traits I saw in you as a man when I met your wife and first born at Grandma's many years ago...except that, in addition I could see the love you had for your family and the strength and confidance you possessed. I know your family hurts and misses you; your wife, kids, mom, dad, brothers...because the rest of feel the loss as well. My prayers and thoughts are with all of you."
Josie Mendez (cousin) of San Jose, CA

"To Remember Them..In loving Memory..Its been a year..

At the rising of the sun and at its going down, We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of Winter, We remember them.
At the opening of buds and in the rebirth of Spring, We remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of Summer, We remember them.
At the rustling of leaves and the beauty of Autumn, We remember them.

As long as we live, they too will live;
for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.
Rest in Peace Dear Marine! SEMPER FI!!We will NEVER FORGET"
The Grogan Family of Lakeland, TN

"Captain Contreras, goodbye soldier and thank you. You are my hero."
Bill of Houston, Texas

"Aaron was my best friend, my companion, my confidant. I will miss him dearly for the rest of my life since we were supposed to spend it together. His three children are the ones that will truely miss out on the wonderful father that he was. As the words of his wise brother Tom, has said in the past, to honor him, you can try to be as much like him as you can - mainly, be the best father that anybody could hope to be. He truely was an example of "true love" when it came to his children and wife. I want to thank you all so much for your support and kind words. The things so many people have done for me and my children will NEVER be forgotten. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts."
Janelle Contreras - Aaron's wife and kids. of Temecula, Ca - our home

"I am sadened by the loss of Capt. Contreras. My husband was in his unit and I had the honor of meeting him. He will always be remembered."
Kasondra Davis of San Bernardino, Ca

"Thank you Aaron Contreras, you will not be forgotten. Your bravery goes beyond words. I want to express my deepest gratitude for your sacrifice. To the family and friends, my prayers and deep condolences in your loss. May God strengthen you from knowing that fellow Americans and people around the world care about you and grieve with you in your loss. God bless you all. A very appreciative fellow American,"
Leo Titus of Grayslake, Illinios

"From the family of Captain Aaron Contreras to Tim Rivera--Thank you for creating this web site that allows people to share their feelings and express their sympathy.
We would also like to extend our thanks to all those that have left messages expressing their sympathy and support.
May God bless each of you, our country and all people that embrace freedom."
Ed and Rosary Contreras of Sherwood, Oregon

"Aaron was my best friend growing up, we were almost always in each others company. Not a day goes by that I dont think of him. If I could give him one message, I would tell him how beautiful his kids are, and how much we loved him. The fourth of July will never be the same again."
Gary of Sherwood,OR, USA

"Aaron,
I remember you from our school days. You always made me laugh. I will never forget..."
Jennifer Scarpaci-Raaka of Redondo Beach, Ca

"Our prayers are with your family during this difficult time. Thank you brave soldier, your courage and sacrifice will nerver be forgotten."
Ken and Maritza Holley of Pembroke Pines, Florida

"To the family and friends of Capt. Aaron Contreras:
May God's grace be with you during your time of grief. Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and we feel your loss and share in your sorrow. Bless Aaron for the sacrifice he has made to make a better life for the rest of us."
The Ford Family of Wells, Nevada

"To the family and friends of Capt. Aaron Contreras:
I am saddened by the loss of your loved one. He will always be remembered as a hero for fighting for freedom. I hope that this website will be a source of comfort and encouragement for you during this difficult time, and in the future as you recall the memories of Aaron, who continues to live on in your heart."
Tim Rivera, of Powder Springs, Georgia

"Mere words are not enough to express the gratitude I feel for the service Aaron has given to his country. My deeepest sympathy to his family. Be proud you had such a fine young man."
Terri Curtis of Green Forest, Arkansas

"Sending all my love to Aaron's wife and kids my condolences. To my Aunt, Uncle & cousins all my love, remember that our prayers are always with you."
Jane (Juanita) of Houston, Texas

"No words that I say can make your pain go away, please except my deeps sympathy and regards for our fallen hero.

May peace be with you."
Susana Contreras Czerwinski of Sturtevant, WI USA

"Aaron,
many fond memories of our childhood together...pushing the motorcycle up the hill countless times because we didn't have gas, then we ended up crashing into the blackberry bushes, playing "The Hulk", the trampoline, football at Grandma's, the hidden pond in the forest, and so many other wonderful, magical times. I can still hear your laugh - though it's been so long.
Thank you for being you - being brave - being a great man. I love you."
Mitchell Mendez (cousin) of San Jose,CA

"To Aarons family: Thank you for his and your sacrifice. God bless his soul"
Nancy of Ocala FL

"Thank you Devil Dog...Semper Fi. We shall never forget you..."
The Taylors, USMC of NC

Honor them by remembering... Freedom - is their gift to us But his soul goes marching on