Memorials of boots against inverted rifles, draped with dog tags and topped with Kevlar helmets are among the most common tributes paid to military personal when they die in combat.
In many cases, however, these solemn memorials are just the beginning of the homages paid to these fallen warriors. Each unit has a different way of honoring and coping with their losses and ensuring their brothers and sisters are not forgotten. Some tributes are large. Some are small. All honor people who were more than Marines to those who knew them
Sign of Respect
Outside a compound within Camp Fallujah, Iraq, home of II Marine Expeditionary Force, stands a newly painted sign bearing the words “Camp Farrar.” The camp was recently renamed after Sgt. Andrew K. Farrar Jr., who was killed in action in the Al Anbar Province on Jan. 28, 2005. Units often rename their camps after the area of operations or as an honor to a hero in their service.
The military police officer’s death was a tragedy for his unit, A Company, 2nd Military Police Battalion, and even more so for his family. Farrar was killed on his 31st birthday.
The Weymouth, Mass., native left behind a wife and two children. He also left a lasting impression on his fellow Marines.
“I think about Andrew everyday,” said Sgt. Jonathan Bates, an accident investigator stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C. “He taught me that Marines want to be led, and that it’s my job to step up and lead them.”
Farrar’s impact on Bates went beyond the ranks.
“I had the privilege of calling him my friend,” he said.
Closing Emotional Wounds
In another effort to honor and cope with the passing of Marines, large ceremonies are held to grieve over the fallen and to reflect on the Marines’ lives. Entire communities and family members are invited to large remembrances where they get inside views on what type of person their loved one was.
Staff Sgt. William F. Hornsby served in Iraq with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment as a scout sniper platoon sergeant and assistant operations chief. He and about 200 others recently took part in a ceremony at Marine Corps Base Hawaii to honor 1/3’s fallen.
Marines are often deployed for long stretches of time. This not only leaves a void in the community, but can also make the Marines strangers to their families, said Hornsby. Ceremonies allow families to meet people who knew their loved ones and were with them before their deaths. This gives them insight to who they were.
“They see the man that their Marine was,” said Hornsby, a Pensacola, Fla., native. “They get a sense of closure.”
The family also sees the bonds their Marines had with their brothers and sisters.
“They witness the ‘band of brothers,’ that we talk about and brag about,” said Hornsby.
About 1,000 people recently attended a memorial service for Marines of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Two Marines stood out among those people attending the memorial. Warrant Officer James R. Newton and Staff Sgt. Pasquale R. Pappalardo both got tattoos of the M-16A2 service rifle memorial on their right calves.
The tattoos honor Sgt. Byron Norwood, a squad leader with 3/1 who died in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“He was all about the Marine Corps and he would have appreciated the (memorial) service. He was a Marine’s Marine,” said Newton in an interview with Camp Pendleton’s pubic affairs office.
Permanent honors to Norwood recently reached a national level when President Bush signed into affect a law that renamed a local post office in Pflugerville, Texas, after Norwood, according to a White House press release. The Marine’s hometown post office is now called, Sergeant Byron W. Norwood Post Office Building.
When many of are at a loss for words, others find their voices and are able to articulate the feelings so many have at the passing of a loved one. Songs, like “Last Letter Home,” by the Dropkick Murphys, who played at Farrar’s funeral, at his request, remind listeners of the lives left behind by the servicemen and women deployed around the world.
Others, like Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Kelly Strong, remind us of service members’ sacrifices through their poetry. “I wondered just how many times that taps had meant ‘Amen’ When a flag had draped a coffin of a brother or a friend.”
Regardless of the size, shape or style of the memorials, friends and loved ones honor their fallen Marines in ways that mean the most to them. At camps in the faraway Iraqi deserts and in homes across America, men and women are remembered not for their deaths, but for the lives they led and the impact they made on those they touched.