News: 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion honors fallen Marines during memorial ceremony in Afghanistan
Story by Sgt. Jessica Ostroska
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – The blazing heat of the morning sun beat down on Marines and sailors as they quietly stood in formation July 8, 2014. The battalion sergeant major took the final role call and three names were called out. No one moved. No one made a sound.
Slowly a few Marines appeared from behind a cement-wall barrier carrying three rifles, three pairs of combat boots, three Kevlar helmets and three sets of identification tags, carefully placing the items to form three battlefield crosses. Directly in front of the crosses were large pictures of three Marines whose lives ended too soon.
Staff Sgt. David H. Stewart, a combat engineer, platoon sergeant and native of Stafford, Virginia; Cpl. Brandon J. Garabrant, a combat engineer and native of Peterborough, New Hampshire; and Cpl. Adam F. Wolff, a combat engineer and native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, all Marines serving with 3rd Platoon, Route Clearance Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, gave the ultimate sacrifice while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, June 20, 2014.
The battlefield crosses stood on their own, at the front of the formation for the unit to honor the service and sacrifice of their fallen brothers during the memorial ceremony aboard Camp Leatherneck.
“Thank you for joining us today to honor the life and memory of these three Marines,” said Lt. Col. John C. Osborne, commanding officer, 2nd CEB. “They shared a common drive to be a Marine, pride in their service and a unique love for being Marines. While we mourn the loss, we also celebrate having known our brothers and the values they stood for and will continue to honor them by living those values that drove them to be Marines – honor, courage and commitment.”
Stewart joined the Marine Corps during 2000. He served as a drill instructor and deployed five times in support of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
“I respected Staff Sgt. Stewart’s consistency and professionalism at work, but the thing I admired most was his role as a father and husband,” said Staff Sgt. Patrick D. Hobbs, platoon sergeant, 2nd Platoon, Route Clearance Company. “They say leading peers is the hardest form of leadership, and that leading by example is not just one way, it is the only way. His patience, selflessness, and ability to accomplish everything he set out to do on or off duty were how he set the example, and it was the example of how to be a man. I quickly realized I had a lot to learn from him, and we formed a bond based on respect and love. We became brothers.”
Stewart is survived by his wife, Kristine Stewart; daughter, Mackenzie; son, Marshall; and his father, retired Marine Lt. Col. Nelson H. Stewart.
Garabrant joined the Marine Corps during 2013. He was a volunteer firefighter in his hometown, and continued to volunteer even when he was home on leave. He was so eager to become a Marine he finished high school a semester early to attend recruit training. This was his first deployment to Afghanistan.
“Garabrant would do anything for anyone,” said Sgt. Travis S. Leeson, platoon guide, 3rd Platoon, Route Clearance Company. “If one of the other Marines were having problems, he was always right there to help them and teach them. He caught on to our job very quickly, and was always the first to volunteer if something needed to be done. He was very soft spoken and very motivating. He was excited to do everything, and was not afraid of anything. He always had a smile on his face, and was dedicated to improving and bettering himself to be the best Marine he could be.”
Garabrant is survived by his mother, Jesse Evans; father, John Garabrant; brother, Jacob Garabrant; and sister, Mykala Garabrant.
Wolff joined the Marine Corps during 2012. This was his first deployment.
“Adam had a very keen sense of humor,” said 1st Lt. Alex J. Bablitch, platoon commander, 3rd Platoon, Route Clearance Company. “He was very quiet, and then all of a sudden he would say something that would be awkward, but very funny. He was a riot. He was always trying to improve himself and learn new things. He thrived on being respectful and professional. He would give the shirt off his back for anyone. He loved being a Marine and was very proud of that. He paid attention to every detail, learning all that he could.”
Wolff is survived by his mother, Deborah Hall; father, Nicholas Wolff; brother, Nathan Wolff; his twin brother, Aaron Wolff; and his sisters, Amanda and Angela Wolff.
The ceremony continued as the service members faced the battlefield crosses, standing still, unwavering in the breezeless morning heat as a Marine read from Scripture Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time rebuild; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and time to dance; a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them; a time to embrace and a time to refrain; a time to search and a time to give up; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to mend; a time to be silent and a time speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time of war and a time of peace.”
Marines and sailors stood silently as a Marine rifle detail shot a volley of three rounds and another Marine played “Taps” on his trumpet in honor of the heroes.
The ceremony came to a close as the chaplain gave his final remarks in honor of the fallen heroes.
“There is nothing I can say to help you make sense of this that you don’t already know. I can’t tell you why this had to happen at this time, at this place, or to these men, but let me tell you what I do know,” said Cmdr. Thomas Hunt, Regional Command (Southwest) chaplain. “I know the quality of a man’s life cannot be measured in years on this planet. I look at the examples of these men and can’t help but be impressed; each voluntarily chose to stand for what they believe in. They chose to stand up to evil. They chose to make a difference, even for people they didn’t know. In other words, they are Marines. And notice that I said ‘are’ and not ‘were,’ because I truly believe that ‘Once a Marine, Always a Marine.’ And the end of life on this earth does not change that. I believe that Almighty God has a plan, and though we don’t always understand his reasoning, I trust that he knows best. It would be better if people of his creation could live in peace, but at least right now that isn’t happening and until it does people like Staff Sgt. Stewart, Cpl. Garabrant and Cpl. Wolff will be needed to protect those unable to protect themselves from those who choose to use terror and tyranny in pursuit of selfish ends. Lastly I’ve learned I want my son to have examples like these men. I want him to know that sometimes you have to stand for something, and that stance could come with a cost.”
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