MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Marines in Iraq proudly put their lives in danger every day to do a job that others can’t or won’t do for themselves. But there are few that must give their lives to ensure that job of ensuring freedom and protecting loved ones is accomplished.
This ultimate sacrifice made by Marines like Lance Cpls. Mario A. Castillo and Andrew J. Kilpela does not go unnoticed as their family and friends mourned the loss of these men during a memorial service here at the Protestant Chapel, June 29.
Castillo, 20, and Kilpela, 22, were killed while fighting the Global War on Terrorism with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion. Each was fatally wounded when their humvee was struck by an improvised explosive device in the Al Anbar province of Iraq.
Castillo, a Brownwood, Texas, native attended Brownwood High School and soon after graduating joined the Marine Corps serving in Operations Secure Tomorrow and Iraqi Freedom.
Kilpela, a Livonia, Mich., native, graduated from Fowlerville High School and also served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The ceremony began with a moment of silence as everyone paid respect to their fallen brothers.
It continued with a prayer followed by Lt. Col. David A. Ottignon, commanding officer of the battalion, giving his remarks about the two Marines.
“They were brave and heroic,” he said. “They understood the call of duty. I was most struck by the heroism and tenacity of those Marines.
“They fought with loyalty and honor for their buddies,” he continued.
The ceremony ended with the traditional roll call in which the battalion’s first sergeant called out names of Marine in the battalion. Marines answered ‘here first sergeant’ in a firm manner which echoed off the chapel walls. Soon the first sergeant came to Castillo’s name, followed by Kilpela’s. A hollow silence was their only answer. Tears greeted the silence as family, friends and fellow Marines were left with a sense of finality. The roll call concluded and was then followed by Taps.
Afterwards, family, friends and Marines with the battalion shared remarks with each about their fallen comrades.
Some mentioned Castillo’s fearless smile and devotion to his squad. Others spoke about Kilpela’s courageous demeanor, always willing to take on all challenges and face anyone, no matter the size. Both Marines left a special part of themselves in the heart of every Marine and inspired them to continue the fight and finish the mission.
“These Marines joined for Corps and country to fight evil,” Ottignon stated. “But once they were on the battlefield, they fought for the Marine next to them and their loved ones back home. These Marines fought to make a better America.”