At 21 years old, Jesse Nathanael Aliganga was committed to the Marines—a commitment cut short by terrorists.
Sgt. Aliganga, a Marine Security Guard at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, had a promising future ahead of him as a U.S. Marine. But on Friday, August 7, 1998, he was killed by a massive car-bomb explosion at the embassy that occurred almost simultaneously with the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Five Diplomatic Security Service-contracted local guards— Ramadhani Mahundi, Abbas William Mwilla, Bakari, Nyumbu, Elia Elisha Paul, and Mtendeje Rajabu—were also killed in the Dar es Salaam bombing.
In total, the two East Africa bombings killed more than 200 people and wounded 4,000.
Nathan, as he was called by friends and family, joined the Marines in January 1995. He was sent to Nairobi in February 1998 after he completed Marine Security Guard School in Quantico, Virginia. Trained as a communications specialist, he had previously held posts in Okinawa, Japan, and Camp Pendleton, California.
“He was so proud to be a Marine—something he was bound and determined to do,” recalled his mother, Clara Aliganga, who received her son’s Purple Heart Medal during a memorial service at Quantico, Virginia, in August 1998. “They told me how wonderful my son was and that he was a good Marine. I know he was.”
His sister, Leah Colston, recalled that Nathan came back from basic training slim and tough. “He was not big in stature, but he had a big heart,” she recalled.
Born in Oakland, California, and raised in Pensacola, Florida, Sgt. Aliganga was remembered by family members as being energetic and ambitious. He liked to draw, read Greek mythology, collect comic books, and played saxophone in his high school band.
Yet, his memory will continue to live in the hearts and minds of those who knew him—and those who didn’t—as described, for example, in an article about Marine Security Guard training in the Washington Post, published several months after the East Africa bombings. When country assignments were given out during one of the first classes of the Marine Security Guard school after Sgt. Aliganga’s death, the students broke out in cheers when eight of the students’ names were called —and the instructor simply said, “Nairobi.” The Washington Post article noted that the Marine Security Guards who were heading to Nairobi considered the assignment a badge of honor.
In the article, one of the instructors who had trained Sgt. Aliganga recalled him as being “a real good Marine,” Gunnery Sgt. Jeff Hoke was reported as saying, “This guy had a lot of heart. He impressed a lot of the instructors here.”
Aside from his family, Sergeant Aliganga’s love was the Marines, and his memory lives on through online and physical memorials in his honor throughout the world—and on a simple bronze plaque at the Marine Security Guard School at Quantico. All who go through the rigorous training see and remember one of their own—and the sacrifice he made for his country.
Sgt. Jesse Nathanael Aliganga and the DSS-contracted local guards–Ramadhani Mahundi, Abbas William Mwilla, Bakari Nyumbu, Elia Elisha Paul, and Mtendeje Rajabu—are among 144 people honored on the DS Memorial Wall. The DS Memorial recognizes those who lost their lives in the line of duty while in service to Diplomatic Security.