Unit HomeNewsNews Article Display
SiteData
Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

 

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

"The West Coast's Premier Expeditionary Training Base"

CRYING SKY SHROUDS SOMBER MEMORIAL 'REALITY OF SERVICE' UNDERSCORED BY LOSS OF MEN

By LCpl. Nathan J. Ferbert | | April 20, 2000

SHARE
The sky cried and the wind howled as Leathernecks and family members surrounded 15 field-loaded packs and stacks of M16 service rifles in formation on the San Mateo parade deck Monday. The packs, each garnished with cammie-netted Kevlars, small flags, flowers and the name of an ill-fated Marine, were at the center of a ceremony 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment's held in honor of the warriors who died in the MV-22 Osprey crash April 8 in Marana, Ariz. "We understand and realize the dangers that come from service to Corps and country," LtCol. Mark Callihan, commanding officer of 3/5, said while addressing his entire battalion, along with guests and family members who survive the 15 fallen Marines. Fourteen were from 3/5 and one was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James L. Jones was also on hand to remember victims of the crash, which claimed a total of 19 Marines. "But when our Marines are taken away so suddenly, it is never easy to accept,? Callihan continued, ?especially when they are lost not in the heat of battle or on foreign shores, but in training close at home. "We grieve today, as a family should, relying on the strength of the whole to provide solace to our individual pain. As Marines, we know that our mourning must give way to the reality of our service. Today we salute our departed friends, tomorrow we will focus on continuing to train and prepare ourselves to answer the nation's call." The chaplain of 3/5, Lt.j.g. Timothy May, gave the invocation, telling mourners to recognize their pain to get through grief. "When it comes to understanding death, especially the death of those who are so young and so intimately close to us, we shrink. Our faith, quite honestly, becomes shaken to the core; we become paralyzed and numb to our thoughts, our feelings and our future. But somehow, in the deep places of our hearts and minds, we know we cannot stay in this cold darkness of grief." Between each speaker, Marines from 3/5 read scriptures from the Bible, telling "how the mighty have fallen in the midst of battle." The crowd got a picture of what occurred in the desert from Maj. Todd S. Eckloff, CO, "I" Co. "The deployment to Yuma provided all of the opportunities for us to do what men join the Corps to do -- to fly low and fast through the mountains, conduct live-fire-and-maneuver missions, to be hard in a hard, Spartan environment and to do these things with men of similar mind and interest. "All of us were anxious and excited by the opportunity to fly in the Osprey, and the platoon commanders eagerly awaited their tasks in order to find out which platoon would get the chance," he continued, pausing to maintain his composure. "First Platoon and its attachments received Site 3, the airfield at Marana, Arizona ... I remember, as they prepared to leave, exchanging a quick salute with the platoon commander, and saying, 'See you when you get back,' before watching them depart ... The loss of such a talented group of men possessing such potential was staggering. Under the glow of the generator lights, I read the names of our fallen, and it was a moment that no member of team-India will ever forget. "Our 15 fellow warriors made the ultimate sacrifice and have become members of that group who we refer to as those who have gone before. They have become part of the legacy of the Marines past and as such, it is our responsibility to conduct ourselves honorably, whether in war or peace, whether we wear the uniform or not. Anything less than our best would dishonor the memory of sacrifice of our brothers." Callihan closed with a passage from the Fleet Marine Force Manual, 1-0, "Leading Marines," which he said captures the essence of why they were gathered. "Although the Corps contains its share of visible heroes, its triumphs and an admiration of history are triumphs of the institution itself and not the attainments of the individual Marines," he read. "We remember that Marlborough defeated the French, that Togo defeated the Russians, that Scythio defeated Carthage, but we only know that it was the Marines that won at Belleau Wood, the Marines who won at Guadalcanal and the Marines who led the way at Inchon, and that is exactly the way that the Corps' heroes, big and small, would have it. For the Corps is less of the flesh than of the spirit. "The spirit of 3/5 is displayed before you, and that is exactly the way that we would have it," he said, fighting back tears. "We will always remain to their memory -- Semper Fidelis." General Jones, commandant of the Marine Corps, posed questions to those gathered. "Who were these Marines, these men, these fallen heroes? What inspired them to accept the life of hardship in service to the flag? Our 22nd commandant, Gen. David M. Shoup, once observed, and I quote, 'that neither money nor machines can serve as a substitute for our fighting men. We cannot fight justice and freedom, we cannot manufacture them, we have got to want them. And wanting them, we have got to be willing to fight for them without any selfish thoughts with our personal convenience. This is what we must ask first of ourselves and then of our children, and ask it we must.' "These 19 Marines knew well of the truth in these words and accepted the challenge contained in them," he proclaimed. "They were Marines, men who accepted their nation's call and embraced the rigor of service with zeal and faced the prospect of sacrifice, hardship and scant reward willingly. They were men who fervently believed in this nation and its people, and most deeply, in this hallowed institution, this band of brothers, this Marine Corps." "They were men who serviced, honored and contributed to the Corps' rich ... heritage, and most importantly, they were beloved sons, brothers, husbands and fathers, who lived in both their private and professional lives in the words of our cherished motto, Semper Fidelis, always faithful." The commandant finished his speech by imploring Marines to remember those lost and to drive on. "The Marines and sailors who served in 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, and indeed in all of our units here at Camp Pendleton, know full well the hazards of our profession and deeply appreciate the burden borne by our families. Together let us remember our fallen comrades and believe that as long as their memory lives, so, too, do they in our hearts. Let us also honor their memory by striving to meet the high standards that they have set for us. And let us take care of those who are left behind." Following the commandant?s message, the crowd stood for the reading of the names of each Marine lost, a moment of silence and "Taps." The final prayer by the chaplain echoed the commandant's message and talked of a new beginning. "While the service and music may tell us that it marks the end, that closure, we know that it really is a signal of new beginning," May said. "And while we may not be ready to run forward into the future, into this new beginning, we know that we can at least walk or crawl until we are not alone ... ?... And now we commit ourselves to never forget their memories. We commit ourselves to consistently face the challenges that lie ahead with the same honor, courage and commitment of those who have gone before us. We commit ourselves to never again take our lives or our freedom for granted." The 1st Marine Division Band concluded the memorial, playing a solemn version of the Marine's Hymn. Then attendees flocked to the formation of packs on the parade deck. As the rain continued to pour, family members and Marines paid homage to the lost warriors, some kneeling and sobbing while others stared emptily. Some stayed more than an hour, mourning those lost for a lifetime.
SHARE