News: 3/1 holds memorial for the fallen
By Sgt. Heidi Agostini
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Marines and sailors paid tribute to their fallen comrades during a memorial ceremony at Camp Pendleton, Dec. 3.
Third Battalion, First Marine Regiment, and family members honored the 14 men killed in action during the battalion’s deployment to Helmand province, Afghanistan.
The battalion returned in November from a seven-month deployment to Garmsir District in southern Afghanistan, where they conducted counterinsurgency operations in support of Afghan national security forces and the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
“I have found, as we return from Afghanistan, that much of the media coverage of this war is discouraging,” said the battalion’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Benjamin Watson, during the memorial ceremony. “I can tell you however, that our recent experience in Garmsir District tells an entirely different story. These men we honor here today, and these men who stand here before you, have shown that winning is possible.”
The district the battalion left weeks ago was entirely different than the district they found when they arrived in April. By the time the battalion left, the insurgency was cleared from population centers, and for the first time in more than a decade, more than 3,000 children were attending school and the first all-girl school was near completion. The Afghan police patrolled the district and the Afghan army was growing in numbers. Elected locals represented their government and demonstrated resilience and the willingness to accept personal risk to invest in a brighter future.
The battalion’s success came at a cost. Among the fallen were two sailors, two Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force, one Marine from 4th Marine Division and a British soldier from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
“On this day, we gather not to mourn, but to honor the memories and sacrifices of 14 men who join the distinguished fraternity of heroes,” Watson said. “These 14 men were courageous, strong and beloved. They fought for their friends and they fought for people who could not fight for themselves. It has been the most humbling experience of my life to not only see them in action, but to be considered worthy to stand up and fight in the company of such men.”
The fallen include:
- Gunnery Sgt. Floyd Holley, 36, Casselberry, Fla.
- Sgt. Brandon Bury, 26, from Kingwood, Texas
- Sgt. John Rankel, 23, Speedway, Ind.
- Sgt. Joseph Caskey, 24, Pittsburgh
- Sgt. Kenneth May, 26, Kilgore, Texas
- Cpl. Jeffery Johnson, 21, Tomball, Texas
- Cpl. Donald Marler, 22, St. Louis
- Cpl. Larry Harris, 24, Thorton, Colo.
- Cpl. Max Donahue, 23, Highlands Ranch, Colo.
- Cpl. Kristopher Greer, 25, Ashland City, Tenn.
- Lance Cpl. Derek Hernandez, 20, Edinburgh, Texas
- Petty Officer 3rd Class Zarian Wood, 29, Houston
- Seaman William Ortega, 23, Miami
- Cpl. Matthew Thomas, 24, Great Britain