Giovani Cruz

Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps


Entered the Service from: New Jersey
Died: July 4, 2010
Buried at: Brigadier William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery
                  350 Provinceline Road 
                  Wrightstown, NJ 08562

LANCE CORPORAL GIOVANI CRUZ, of Camden NJ, was drowned in a swimming accident while serving at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 

Camden Courier-Post - July 14, 2010

Camden Marine drowns at Guantanamo

A U.S. Marine from Camden has died in a swimming accident at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Lance Cpl. Giovani "Gio" Cruz, 22, was one of three Marines who drowned while swimming off a recreational beach at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay on July 4, military officials said.

The Navy offered no details about the swimming deaths. It said Cruz and two other stricken Marines -- Cpl. Paul Fagundes and Lance Cpl. James May Jr. -- were recovered from the surf but could not be revived.

Two Marines who became separated from Cruz's group were able to return to shore. They reported Cruz and the others were in distress, the Navy said.

"He died doing what he loved," Cruz's mother, Isabel Febres of East Camden, said Monday. "He loved being a Marine."

She said her son enlisted in March 2009, almost two years after his graduation from Camden County Vo-Tech High School in Gloucester Township.

"He wanted to become somebody better, which he did when he became a Marine," she said. "He served his country proudly."

Cruz, who was based in Norfolk, Va., went to Guantanamo Bay in May for a three-month security detail. His Marine unit guarded the fence line between Cuba and the U.S. base, which holds a detention facility for terror suspects.

The Marines also received anti-terrorism training at Guantanamo Bay.

"While not lost in combat, they were lost in the defense of our nation," Marine Major Winston Tierney said at a memorial service last week at Guantanamo.

Tierney, who was the Marines' commanding officer, cited Cruz, Fagundes and May as "the best our nation has to offer." All were members of Fleet Anti-terrorism Team, Alpha Company, 6th Platoon.

Febres described her son as "lovable, respectful and fun-filled," saying he tried to avoid negative influences on the city's streets.

"That's why he joined the Marines, to not be involved in that situation," she said of Cruz, who's also survived by his father, Herminio Febres of South Camden. "He always played his Xbox with his fiancee (Jackie Mass). He was going to get married when he came back in August."

At the same time, she said, the oldest of her four children eagerly accepted a challenge.

"When he joined the military, I asked him, "Why the Marines? And he said to me, "Why go soft when you can go hard?"

"That was him," said Febres, who now carries her son's phrase in a tattoo on her back right shoulder.

Camden Courier-Post - July 14, 2010

CRUZ, Giovani, Age 22, of Camden, was born on April 15, 1988. Giovani also known as Gio was a member of the United States Marine Corps. He is survived by his mother Isabel Febres and his father Herminio Febres, brothers Herminio Febres Jr., Christopher Cruz and his sister Tiffany Febres, his finace' Jackie Mass and a host of aunts, uncles and cousins. The viewing and services will be held Thursday, July 15th at May Funeral Home 4522 Westfield Ave., Penn-sauken from 5-10pm. Interment Friday 11:30am at Brig. General William C Doyle Veterans Cemetery. Ministry of comfort entrusted to MAY FUNERAL HOMES, Camden, Pennsauken, Vineland and Willingboro. Expressions of sympathy may be sent through mayfuneral homes.com..

Camden Courier-Post - July 16, 2010

Tears fall for Marine in Camden

Jackie Mass was supposed to join family and friends at a bridal shower this weekend, celebrating her planned marriage next month to a young Marine from Camden.

Instead, the 19-year-old and other loved ones gathered at a funeral home Thursday to say goodbye to her fiance, Lance Cpl. Giovani "Gio" Cruz, who drowned while swimming at a U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on July 4.

"He was my everything," said Mass, who wore Cruz's dog tags and ring on a necklace. "We talked about a lot of future plans."

Indeed, family members said Cruz, 22, had overcome obstacles to reach many goals. He had graduated from Camden County Vo-Tech High School in 2007, started his military career in 2009, and navigated a path away from Camden's dangerous streets.

"He inspired us a lot," said Christopher Cruz, the Marine's 20-year-old brother. "He chose this course because he wanted to make us all proud."

"He was always about (accomplishing) something," said Debra Russ of West Deptford, the mother of Cruz's fiancee. "He wanted to make a better life for Jackie. He told her, "Babe, I want to be out of the streets of Camden.' "

More than 150 mourners, many in colorful T-shirts adorned with Cruz's photo and inspirational messages, attended the services at May Funeral Home. Cruz lay in his dress uniform in a half-open steel-grey casket flanked by floral displays and, for part of the service, a Marine Corps honor guard.

The event combined tears and laughter, sermons and a slideshow, memories and exhortations.

"I want everybody to know that living here in Camden, we can make it happen," said Cruz's aunt, Alisia Reyes, a city native who moved her family to Orlando. "He did what he had to do to get out."

City Council President Frank Moran said Cruz was representative of many young people in Camden.

"Our kids in this city have dreams and aspirations," he said. "Although he had a short life, he loved what he was doing."

Cruz is to be buried today at Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Arneytown. He was one of three Marines who drowned while swimming off a recrational beach at the base in Guantanamo Bay. The Navy has offered few details, but family members say the men were caught in an undertow.

Cruz began a three-month assignment at Guantanamo Bay in May. His unit, based in Norfolk, Va., was assigned to guard the boundary between Cuba and the U.S. base, which holds a detention facility for terror suspects.

Cruz was expected to return in August, when he was to marry Mass, a Franklinville resident. "She has her wedding dress and everything," Debra Mass noted of her daughter.

Kasinera Russ, 22, a family friend from Camden, focused on Cruz's accomplishments and not his loss. She noted the Marine's journey had taken him from an impoverished area in East Camden to a Caribbean island that some would consider a vacation spot -- and that Cruz surely expected more good things would come.

"It must have felt like paradise," she said.