Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas Bloem was one of 10 children, but he and his twin brother were the only boys in the local family.
Both Cpl. Bloem, 20, and his twin, Alcides, were cheerleaders at Kent View Christian Senior High School, now called Rainier Christian High School, in Auburn. And both joined the Marines.
Cpl. Bloem was killed Wednesday in a bomb attack that claimed 14 Marines south of Haditha, Iraq.
A large bomb exploded and flipped their lightly armored assault vehicle, marking one of the deadliest incidents since the insurgency began.
During his first conversation with his high-school sweetheart, Kacie Ouano, Cpl. Bloem told her he wanted to be a Marine.
"It was definitely his calling in life. I don't think he could have asked for a better way to die," she said.
Home-schooled until his junior year, Bloem attended Kent View for one year until his family moved to Montana, where he graduated from Belgrade High School in 2003.
The Bloems were longtime members of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Issaquah.
Cpl. Bloem and his brother enjoyed athletics, but their small school didn't field a football team. So the brothers joined the cheerleaders for the school's basketball team.
"He always thought the [University of Washington] Husky yell kings were so strong," said Ouano, 20, who also was a cheerleader at Kent View. "He wanted to be like the Husky guys."
His parents, Al and Debbie, were not surprised their sons wanted to join the military. But they were a little perplexed by their decision to become Marines.
"It surprised me, but that's what he wanted to do," Al Bloem said. "He always wanted to go after hard challenges."
Deployed in Iraq since March, Cpl. Bloem didn't see much action until May. Since then, the fighting had been furious, he wrote home. And the fear of roadside bombs was ever-present in his unit, Al Bloem said.
Cpl. Bloem didn't complain about equipment or tactics, his father said. Just the food.
"They all wanted to see a Pizza Hut and a McDonald's," he said. "That was about the only negative thing I remember him talking about, the MREs [the military's prepackaged meals]."
Al Bloem's other son was released from the Marines because of health concerns.
But if Alcides Bloem should rejoin the Marines and deploy to Iraq like his brother, he would have his father's blessing.
"We are in the midst of a very critical time for our country and the world," the father said.
In addition to his parents, twin brother and eight sisters, Cpl. Bloem is survived by a brother-in-law, a niece, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
A funeral service will be held at First Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Renton, 19800 108th Ave. S.E., at 11 a.m. Monday.
Cpl. Bloem will be buried at Tahoma National Cemetery in the Kent area.
Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or firstname.lastname@example.org