PATROL BASE FIRES, AFGHANISTAN
PATROL BASE FIRES, Helmand province, Afghanistan -- Kind, passionate, resourceful, knowledgeable, humble and brave: those were just some of the words fellow Marines used to describe Cpl. Michael Dutcher during a memorial service for the Asheville, N.C., native at Patrol Base Fires, Sept. 20.
Dutcher, a team leader for 1st Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, was killed in action Sept. 15, while on patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan.
Even before paying the ultimate price for freedom, the 2007 Asheville High School graduate and Junior ROTC cadet gave himself to the platoon in many ways as an individual, a teacher and as a natural leader. He didn’t fit the look of a stereotypical lean,mean, chisel-jawed Marine, but every day he proved wrong what first impressions would lead one to believe.
“Cpl. Duthcer was one of my first Marines as a platoon commander when I checked into the unit,” said 1st Lt. Charles Poulton. “When I first looked at him, I saw this little guy with tiny spectacles that did not do much for his command presence.”
Anyone who drew conclusions about Dutcher’s character based on his appearance alone were proven wrong in short order. He was known for his courage. His intelligence kept him keenly aware of risks he faced, yet he still volunteered for dangerous assignments; his rationale was to keep his brothers safe.
Dutcher was engaged and had made plans for when he got back from Afghanistan and after he got out of the Marine Corps.
“He often talked about having a family with Rachael (Dutcher’s fiancée), watching his kids grow and being a teacher,” said Cpl. Dan Wheeler, a fellow team leader who served with Dutcher in 1st Plt., and in 2nd Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Company when the two were assigned to Marine Corps Security Forces. “But looking back, in a way, he already did. He was able to see many of the young Marines in this platoon grow into who they are today. He taught all of them things from Marine Corps knowledge to all those useless and random facts that have nothing to do with the conversation.”
Dutcher was a gold mine of information regardless of the topic. He was the platoon’s go-to man when equipment failed and kept the platoon going whether or not he had a manual.
“Cpl. Dutcher was the smartest man with the most useless facts,” said Cpl. Victor Sierra, a fellow team leader with 1st Plt. “He could tell you how many grains of salt fit into a 4-ounce container or how if you put a 9-volt battery and a light bulb in a metal container you could make your own microwave.”
“AskJeeves.com had nothing on Cpl. Dutcher,” said Sierra. “He was our own AskDutcher.com.”
He lived up to his role as a non-commissioned officer by training junior Marines with classes using his familiar voice.
“He would make a 10 minute class seem like it would take two hours because he would talk in a monotone voice,” recalled Sierra. “I am always going to miss that about Dutch.”
“But he also taught us all how to live selflessly,” said Wheeler.
Dutcher did this through the way he carried himself and by putting his Marines before himself. During his life and in his death, he always made sure that the guy to his left and the man to right were taken care of professionally and personally. At times he did it by just being himself and pressing on with a smile on his face and his recognizable mud-covered glasses from a patrol.
“Cpl. Dutcher was the nicest person around. He did everything for his brothers,” said Sierra. “He would never complain. You would rarely see him without a smile on his face.”
Dutcher lived and died selflessly for those he loved and served with to ensure they made it home. It was a pure love that others emulated and admired him for.
“Cpl. Dutcher had one mission and one mission only: make his platoon better no matter what he had to do,” said Poulton. “Cpl. Dutcher had no ego to feed, no desire to seek credit for a job well done; only a strong desire to have his platoon succeed.”
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This work, N.C. Marine honored in Afghanistan as a true leader, mentor, friend, by Sgt Benjamin Crilly, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.