MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- It’s a long journey from the streets of Fallujah to the chapel here. But it was a necessary one for the Marines of 2d Amphibian Assault Battalion, who honored the lives and sacrifices of five Marines from their unit during a memorial ceremony recently.
“This lets people know these Marines are really gone, and gives them a chance to come full circle with their healing,” said Cpl. Alan M. Vandewater, a crew chief with the unit and native of Houston. He and other Marines offered their memories to the families and friends of the Marines who were killed in action during their recent deployment to the Al-Anbar province of Iraq.
The ceremony began with Marines who knew the fallen telling stories of their time together and what each Marine meant to them.
“We took care of each other in Iraq, like a family, like a band of brothers,” said Capt. John M. Mederos, who commanded D Company, a unit in the battalion, during their last deployment. He added, “I can’t go back and change what happened, as much as I’d like to, but I can remember and honor these fallen Marines. To the families of these Marines, I am honored to say I served side by side with these extraordinary men.”
Others expressed similar sentiments about their friends who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
“Staff Sgt. Slay (one of the Marines killed) passed on to me the importance of being a good leader. He was like my second father,” said Vandewater. He added, “He taught me to always be aware of my surroundings and always made me feel better no matter how bad the situation got. I won’t forget him.”
The chaplain spoke about why the Marines needed to be remembered for the sacrifices they made for their country.
“When it comes down to it, it takes blood to pay for freedom,” said Lt. Emory C. Lussi, the battalion chaplain. He added, “There’s a picture I have of one of my uncles who died in World War II. I use it to remember the sacrifice he made so that I can be free. I don’t know how many of you today will end up with pictures of these Marines on your wall, but you’d better have something to relate yourselves to the lives of the men lost here. We’re never more than a generation away from forgetting these sacrifices.”
Lussi added, “You need to be able to tell your grandkids that you knew this man in the picture, that he died so we could be free.”
The ceremony ended with a roll call for the fallen warriors and the playing of Taps.
In memory of:
Lance Cpl. Brian P. Parello, 20 years old
Lance Cpl. Wesley J. Canning, 21 years old
Lance Cpl. Joshua L. Torrence, 21 years old
Lance Cpl. Brian K. Schramm, 22 years old
Staff Sgt. Russel L. Slay, 29 years old