MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Friends, families, fellow Marines and sailors gathered to honor the service, commitment and friendship of fallen brothers of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, May 25, who were killed in action while conducting combat operations in Iraq.
Behind the 2nd Marine Logistics Group headquarters building, on the grass amphitheater, in the warm sun overlooking New River, N.C., fallen Marines and a sailor of the battalion were remembered.
“It’s your memorial service…to reflect on the service and sacrifice of these young men who we stood side by side with,” said Lt. Col. William M. Jurney, the commanding officer of the battalion, addressing everyone at the memorial.
The battalion suffered a loss of 11 Marines and one Navy corpsman while fighting the violent insurgency throughout Ramadi, Iraq, on an extended nine-month tour from 2006-2007.
“They are brothers in a way few can truly understand,” Jurney said. “The nature of our shared hardships creates a special bond between our Marines and sailors like no other. I know each of these men shared that special bond and brotherhood with all these men here today.”
The young men of the battalion entered the extremely dangerous city of Ramadi where there were 70-80 firefights a week, according to Jurney.
“Their courage, bravery, commitment and selfless acts were simply amazing,” Jurney said.
By the time they were leaving Ramadi, there was barely one firefight a month to account for. Families and businesses felt safer and were returning to the city because these service members were leaving it in a better state.
“These young men and all those that stand before you made a difference,” Jurney said. “What they did mattered.”
Following Jurney’s address to the crowd, fellow Marines spoke on behalf of each fallen service member the way they remembered them:
Sgt. Julian M. Arechaga, a textbook tactical Marine, was described as the epitome of a leader that would go to any extent to train younger Marines and always made people laugh.
Sgt. Joshua J. Frazier was remembered as having contagious motivation, confidence and conviction in what he was doing and loving to help others.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher A. Anderson, a hospital corpsman, had plans to run for a political office. Loved ones felt this to be an expression of his sense of purpose and desire to serve others.
Cpl. Nicholas J. Manoukian, also known as ‘Manny’, always kept up and never once let his unit down.
Cpl. Myles C. Sebastien, also known as ‘Sea Bass’, was remembered as being positive and always being there for someone to talk to. He was very proud of his wife and family and would always be willing to share photographs of his loved ones with others.
Lance Cpl. Jon E. Bowman always had a smile on his face and strived to make everything better, one remembered. Making others happy came natural to him. He was known to say things like, “You look grumpy; let me give you a hug,” or you could be exposed to his M.C. Hammer dance that always made people laugh.
Lance Cpl. Clifford R. Collinsworth was one of the best drivers hands down, one Marine declared. The Marine recalled the story of when Collinsworth received a nerf ball in a care package and repeatedly threw it at others while yelling “nerf don’t hurt,” making everyone laugh.
Lance Cpl. Thomas P. Echols was described as quick with a smile and a joke. He was a proficient marksman and was justifiably proud to use his skills to help others.
Lance Cpl. Nathan R. Elrod was the best machine gunner, said one Marine. He was quick to share knowledge with junior Marines and always quick with a smile.
Lance Cpl. Ryan T. McCaughn had all the things it took to be a Marine at a very young age. He never complained and always smiled. Anytime you were down or mad at him he would come running at you yelling, ‘ah gigadee, gigadee, gigadee,’ fondly remembered one Marine.
Lance Cpl. Michael A. Schwarz was remembered as a Marine that was not afraid to take the lead. “With all due respect Corporal, you’re married and you’re not going anywhere first,” was what Schwarz told another Marine in a time of danger. That’s the kind of Marine he was, a friend said.
Pfc. Shelby J. Feniello was thought of as a tree that no one could shake. He was always helping out where ever he could, and no task was too big for ‘the Big Poppa’.
At the end of the memorial, people gathered to recognize the sacrifices of these fallen Marines and sailor. They paid their respect and gratitude to those who fought courageously and made the ultimate sacrifice while serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“These Marines and sailors put their life on the line day-in and day-out with selflessness and courage,” Jurney said. “We want all to know that their sons and husbands were not alone. They were surrounded by men who were their bothers and loved them very much.”