MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE N.C. -- Family and friends stood for the National Anthem while gathered together to celebrate eight Marines and one sailor who gave their lives for their country.
The service members honored in the ceremony were Staff Sgt. Christopher Zimmerman, an Austin, Texas, native and a 1996 McNeil High School graduate; Sgt. Mark T. Smykowski, a Cleveland, native and a 2000 Mentor High School graduate; Sgt. Alessandro Carbonaro, a Bethesda, Md., native and a 1997 Sandy Springs High School graduate; Sgt. Elisha Parker, a Rome, N.Y., native and a 2002 Camden High School graduate; Cpl. Stephen R. Bixler, a Hartford, Conn., native and a 2003 Suffield High School graduate. Cpl. Cory L. Palmer, a Seaford, Del., native and a 2001 Seaford Senior High School graduate; Cpl. William B. Fulks, a Culloden, W.Va., native and a 2001 Midland High School graduate; Petty Officer 3rd Class Lee H. Deal, a Baton Rouge, La., native and a 2002 West Monroe High School graduate; Lance Cpl. Robert L. Moscillo, a Salem, Mass., native and a 2003 Salem High School graduate.
“The country of Iraq is better and safer now because of 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion,” said Lt. Col. James Bright, the commanding officer of 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion. “They fell freeing a country from a tyrannical leader and terrorist groups. Failure was not an option for them.”
Throughout the ceremony, scripture was read and families mourned, honoring the men who gave their lives. Friends of each service member shared their personal memories of the fallen.
“I tried to emulate Cpl. Palmer,” said Cpl. Jeffrey D. Elmore. “He enjoyed his job and had a good sense of humor. He was a leader that would correct you politely and praise you for your proficiency.”
“Their story can’t be told by medals,” said Navy Lt. Timothy Springer, the battalion chaplain. “The story is told through my heart. What each of these men did can never be expressed on your chest in medals or ribbons, it can only be told through the heart.”
All of these men entered the service or re-enlisted after Sept. 11, 2001 making the decision to do their part for the country.
“Their personality and spirit lead them to go into harm’s way to give a nation the freedom we take for granted,” Bright explained.
Roll call was read, with each of the fallens’ names being read three times, each time with no response. The families comforted each other as their brother’s, son’s and hero’s name was read.
“Taps” was played as the families paid their final respects at memorials of Kevlar helmet, flack jacket, dog tags and boots dressed over a traditional wooden cross that represented each service member.
“These heroes among men will never be forgotten as long as one 2nd Reconnaissance Marine takes a breath,” Bright said.