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A Marine from Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, the ground combat element of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), honors three of his fallen comrades during a memorial service held at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq Feb. 18, 2006. Cpl. Orville Gerena, Lance Cpl. David Parr, and PFC Jacob Spann of Charlie Company were killed conducting counterinsurgency operations in Iraq's Al Anbar province.

Photo by Sgt. Robert A. Sturkie

22nd MEU, BLT 1/2 Marines mourn the loss of three warriors

18 Feb 2006 | Lance Cpl. Peter R. Miller 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit

In a modest encampment carved from ancient battlefields millennia old, the Marines and sailors of Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, assembled for a roll call for three infantrymen of C Company that would never answer.Cpl. Orville Gerena, Lance Cpl. David S. Parr and Pfc. Jacob D. Spann were tragically killed Feb. 6, in Hit, Iraq, when their Humvee was attacked by an improvised explosive device while returning from patrol.Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn, 2nd Marines, the ground combat element of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), assembled with other Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU (SOC) at Camp Ripper, Iraq, to share in C Company’s loss, and pay their respects to those who will forever remain silent.“They made the sacrifice for us,” said Cpl. Dustin P. Avant, an Alpha Company. rifleman. “It could have been any one of us in that Humvee. Any Marine out here would rather be in their place right now, and let them go home to their families,” said the Denton, N.C., native.Following the chaplain’s prayer and words from the battalion commander, the Marines and sailors stood stoically for the eulogies. The first of which was given by Lance Cpl. Jeffery S. McCarty for his squad leader, Cpl. Orville Gerena.According to McCarty, a Warren, Mich., native, Gerena was a devoted husband and courageous both in the faces of danger and authority.“I always wondered how, after a four-hour foot patrol, and writing up the report for an hour, he would find another hour or two to write a letter to his wife everyday,” said McCarty. “They got married just before he came over here, and ever since he was always talking about her.”McCarty also recalled an example of his squad leader’s leadership and character by telling how he had once corrected a commissioned officer.“We were on patrol in Hit, and Gerena noticed a major straying away from the formation by himself,” he said. “Knowing the danger, he immediately said, ‘Sir, get over here,’ and took him to a nearby Humvee. It was funny at the time, but that’s how he would look out for people, no matter who you were, private to major.”McCarty served with Gerena last year in Iraq too. After years of shared hardships and joys, McCarty said, “Gerena was more than just a friend; he was a brother, our brother. They say the Lord works in mysterious ways, but this is something I’ll never understand.”Following a pause, Lance Cpl. David S. Parr’s fire team leader, Lance Cpl. Kevin T. Herren, took the helm of the solemn formation.Parr will be remembered by his friends as a motivated Marine, a comedian, and someone who was there when others weren’t, said Herren, a Milton, Ohio, native.“He was the type who always had a joke ready,” said Herren. “He would always keep you laughing, but he did his job too. As his fire team leader, I don’t think I ever heard him complain. That’s rare. When he saw something that needed to be done, he’d just do it.”Instead of leaving his buddies in the Camp Lejeune barracks over a boring weekend, Parr, a N.C. native, would take them home with him, Herren said.“He’d always make sure everyone had a good time,” said Herren. “He was all about work, then fun. He was the type of Marine who made you proud to serve.”The final Marine remembered in the ceremony was Pfc. Jacob D. Spann. His eulogy was given by his team leader, machine gunner Lance Cpl. Damon L. Broussard.“I worked with Spann from the time he joined the fleet to the time of his death,” said the Mermentau, Louisiana, native. “I still remember him checking into the fleet. He was naïve and straight out of boot camp, but during our training evolutions, I was able to watch him grow into a solid Marine.”“I remember when he would join me on post to keep me company, even when it was cold and raining,” he said. “Afterwards, we would come inside, thaw our toes by the heater and talk about what we would do after the Marine Corps. He was always telling stories about his two little nieces, his family, his girlfriend, and painting cars with his Russian friends.”Spann didn’t just tell stories to help pass the time, he quickly answered the call to action, said Broussard.“He was never afraid to accept a challenge,” he explained. “Many Marines don’t like going out on patrol everyday, because we realize that every time you go outside the wire, it could be your last. Spann was always the first to volunteer and the first in the vehicle.”Broussard eloquently summarized Spann’s death by saying, “He gave his life for a stranger he never met, and a country where he never really lived. He gave the ultimate gift to man.”Lance Cpl. Daniel C. Fleming, sole survivor of the attack, knew the three Marines well. He spent most of his time in Iraq on patrol with them.“We were together everyday,” said the rifleman from Highpoint, N.C. “We were always picking on each other and joking with each other. We talked about our families back home, what we wanted to do when we got back. Gerena always talked about his wife.”“Today makes it all feel real,” he said sadly. “It’s definitely a day I’ll never forget.”Following the spoken words, the Marines and sailors of C Company stood for a final roll call with spotless weapons slung across their backs stained dark with the dirt and sweat of war. As C Company 1st Sgt. Michael Wooten stood in front of the company, he read names and listened for the appropriate response. “Lance Cpl. Madden?” bellowed Wooten. “Here, 1st Sgt,” came the immediate response from the Marine in question. He read several names before stating a name of one of the fallen. He’d say the name and receive no response. Wooten repeated the name louder. Still no response, so he would then yell the name one last time. His voice, hardened by years of getting Marines’ attention, was answered not by the voice of a young infantryman, but the sound of four Marines marching slowly to the front of the formation. Each Marine carried a part of the memorial: a Kevlar helmet, an M16A4 service rifle with bayonet affixed, a pair of combat boots, and a set of dog tags. They marched to a slow cadence and erected a simple, yet timeless memorial in front of a large board with photos of each of their fallen comrades.After placing the items in front of the formation, the Marines stood alongside while a 21-gun salute was fired and Taps followed. When the music stopped the Marines and sailors of C Company marched single-file by the memorial to render a final salute before marching on to continue their mission.To view images of the ceremony, visit the 22nd MEU web site