MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Silence fell over the Assault Amphibian School Battalion’s parade deck during Sgt. Wesley J. Rice’s memorial service, Feb. 18.
The service was held in remembrance of Rice, 27, who died after the amphibious assault vehicle he and five other Marines were riding in sank at Camp Pendleton’s Del Mar Boat Basin, said base officials.
“[Rice] was looking for a place where he could fit in; he wanted to be part of something bigger than himself.” said Lt. Col. James A. Harris IV, commanding officer, AASBn. “That’s exactly what he found. Wesley loved being an Amtracker; he found what he was looking for—as a man and as a professional.”
More than 200 attendees sat solemnly in the stands, remembering Rice and his accomplishments as a Marine, husband and father of his eight-month-old daughter.
During the ceremony, Navy Lt. j.g. Asif I. Balbale, chaplain, AASBn; along with Harris and friends of Rice; all spoke, admiring Wesley’s memory and paying respect to the memorial placed in his honor.
“Wesley always put others before himself,” said Harris. “[He] loved his wife and daughter with a passion that could not be matched.”
Rice, a native of San Antonio, TX, completed two tours of duty in Iraq and earned several military awards and decorations, including the Combat Action Ribbon.
In September 2009, Sgt. Rice reported to AASBn, Training and Instructor Company, as an instructor for Team #1.
“If there’s one thing I learned from Wesley, it was to never take life for granted; he taught me to live each day as if it were a gift,” said Sgt. Jonathan Knightstep, one of Rice’s friends and fellow instructors.
Knightstep said that Rice was the kind of man who would make anyone laugh; he would brighten days when they seemed dark.
Rice, also known as the “fist-pump-champ”—a name jokingly given to him by his fellow Marines—will forever have a legacy here, explained Knightstep.
“By dying young, a person stays young in memory,” said Knightstep. “Wesley was where God intended him to be. He is watching over us now, and has made a profound impact on our lives.”
The ceremony held in Sgt. Wesley J. Rice’s memory concluded with his friends and family honoring his memorial. Rice is survived by his wife, Lesley; daughter, Gabrielle; mother, Linda; father, Robert; and sister, Clarissa Perez.