Texas Marine paints monument to past deployments

31 Jan 2008 | Lance Cpl. David A. Weikle

Marines everywhere share a special bond of brotherhood along with a rich legacy, which dates back to the Corps’ founding in 1775.

 In line with tradition, Lance Cpl. Javier Ochoa recently painted a monument in honor of the Marine infantry battalions who have served in Ar Ramadi during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

 The sign stands in front of the command post for 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, attached to the U.S. Army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Multi National Force-West. At roughly 8 feet by 8 feet, the sign depicts the crests of all the Marine Corps infantry battalions which have served in the capital city of Al Anbar province since 2004.

 Ochoa, a warehouse clerk with Headquarters and Service Company, was selected to create the mural after some of his artwork around the battalion supply yard was noticed by two senior enlisted Marines.

 “They asked me to draw some (1st Bn., 8th Marines) crests,” said the Del Rio, Texas, native. “After that, they let me draw the mural of the battalions.”

 Ochoa said he started drawing as a young second grader and spent time as a graffiti artist before joining the Corps. He said he enjoyed the work which allowed him to honor the eight infantry battalions which have operated out of Ramadi since 2004.

 “The sergeant major and the battalion commander wanted something to remember all the Marine battalions that had been here,” said the 2006 Del Rio High School graduate.

 The process of painting took two weeks and required Ochoa to split his time between working at the supply yard and producing the mural.

 After he finished the mural, it was placed in front of the battalion’s command post. A few days later, Maj. Gen. Walter E. Gaskin, commanding general of MNF-W, visited Marines and sailors in Ramadi. Before entering the command post, he took time to speak with Ochoa after observing his work.

 “He said he liked it because it was representative of the Marine Corps, not just one battalion,” Ochoa explained. “He thanked me for what I did and what it stands for.”

 Nearly two weeks after Gen. Gaskin’s visit Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, visited Ramadi. After seeing the mural, the Corps’ senior commander thanked Ochoa for his hard work and posed for a photograph alongside Ochoa and Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent, sergeant major of the Marine Corps.

 Task Force 1st Bn.,8th Marines, arrived at a time of considerable change in the counterinsurgency fight in Ar Ramadi and certainly acknowledges the work of its predecessors for the city’s current state of progress, which is revered as leading the way to better Iraqi security capabilities and increased livelihood of the citizens of Al Anbar’s capital. Two of the units on the mural have deployed to Ramadi more than once and are represented twice and some Marines in 1st Bn., 8th Marines, have previously deployed with a few of the other battalions represented.

 The meticulous detail Ochoa used to create the mural inspires

 those here now and honors all who have come before.