Marine from NJ killed in Afghanistan

EAST GREENWICH, N.J. - September 30, 2011

The Department of Defense says 27-year-old First Lt. Ryan K. Iannelli of East Greenwich Township died Wednesday in the Helmand province. Further details on his death were not disclosed, but officials say it remains under investigation.

Iannelli was assigned to the Marine Light Attack helicopter squadron 269, Marine Air Group 29, 2nd Marine Air Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force. He was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in New River, N.C.

Iannelli was a 2002 graduate of Kingsway Regional High School.

At the school on Friday, flags were at half staff.

Jim Ambrosius is now a coach at Williamstown High School, but was Iannelli's head basketball coach at Kingsway.

"First and foremost was his relationship with God. Then it was his family and he wanted to pursue baseball as far as he could," Ambrosius said. "He said 'Coach, if that doesn't work out, then I'm going to enter the military."

Those who knew Ianelli say he was truly an 'All-American' guy - captain of the baseball team, class president and a member of the National Honor Society.

He was also deeply religious, citing the Bible as his favorite book. Iannelli graduated from Oral Roberts University and earned a masters degree from Felician College in North Jersey before joining the Marines in honor of his grandfather.

"To see it happen to someone who is such a quality human being is just heart-breaking," said Kingsway principal Craig Stephenson. "Our hearts are very heavy at Kingsway today."

"It was a pleasure to be around him on a daily basis. I am very proud to have had the opportunity to work with Ryan," said Kingsway baseball coach Ian Enders.

Ianelli is the first graduate of Kingsway to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country since three died during Vietnam.

He will be honored at a future ceremony and will be remembered in a moment of silence before Friday's baseball game.

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