Thursday, November 11, 2004
Yesterday I broadcast from the Manchester Theater at the University of San Diego. In the course of the program, I received this e-mail:
"Hugh, because it is the Marine Corps birthday today,
and because I heard that you are broadcasting live
from USD, I wanted to let you know that USD lost one
of its alumni on April 8th of this year, in Fallujah.
His name was 1st Lt. Joshua Palmer. It would be great
if you could somehow remind the students that they've
lost one of their own over there, especially today,
and especially before veterans day. Josh loved USD. He
graduated just a year before going to Iraq, and still
has a lot of friends on campus. In fact, he was
president of the College Republicans there. Thanks,
I read the e-mail on air, and asked Laura's permission to post it. She agreed, and also sent along a copy of the remarks given at Lieutenant Palmer's memorial service:
"Joshua Michael Palmer was born on Nov. 28th, 1978. He loved to read, he’s read more books than most people have heard of. He particularly loved history and politics. He also played football in High School. He had a very close group of friends while growing up, called the Banning Boys. They were like brothers. In High School, he was known as a leader. He was the guy who always knew what to do, in any situation. While in High School, he went on a trip with his friends to Mexico, and saw the children selling Chiclets gum on the streets. He saw the corruption of the government, and vowed that he would never let that sort of corruption ruin the lives of his children, or the children of America. That’s when he decided to join the Marine Corps., to protect America from that sort of life. He began attending ‘Poolies” meetings right away (because he wasn’t old enough to join) and he practiced with the marines each weekend. He was the only soldier in the history of that unit to be promoted before actually being a marine. When they found out that he wasn’t actually a marine, because he wasn’t old enough, they couldn’t believe it. He got special permission to join when he was 17, but his mom had to sign waiver. Josh joined with two of his best friends, John Thompson and Ryan Hansen. He had one brother, and a mother and father. His parents divorced when he was in the 7th grade, and it had a lasting impact on his life. His family never really understood him. They thought that he was too determined, always trying to be better and do more. He tried to explain to them that he wanted to be someone in the world; that he wanted to do something important, to help people; but they never really understood.
I was engaged to Josh. He sent me flowers all the time. He loved to give people gifts. For my birthday, he spent hours wrapping each gift perfectly, and when it was time to open them, he wouldn’t let me, because he had spent so much time wrapping them. He took very good care of the people he loved. Josh worked hard at everything. He learned Spanish in 2 weeks, enough so that he could pass a fluency test and graduate college early. He wanted to graduate early so that he could become an officer in the Marine Corps., and then serve his country. He was in the top of his class at OCS (Officer Candidate School). Because of this, he could choose any MOS, or field in the Marine Corps. “He chose the infantry because he believed it was the heart of the Marine Corps.”, is how his best friend, Dominic Persechini explained it to Josh’s family. They were upset he had joined the infantry. Infantry is one of the most dangerous MOSs in the Marine Corps, but Josh wanted to make a difference, and actually fight for what he believed in, so he was willing to do it.
In college, when they passed out the reading lists for class, he had usually already read most of the books on the list. He often debated with his professors. He graduated from SDU, San Diego State University, with a degree in International Relations, political science. While he was there, he was selected from among the entire student body, to accompany a professor down to Mexico, to present a study on drug enforcement reform to the Mexican Government. He spoke in front of what would be the Senate for us. His love for children wasn’t just for his and America’s, he was determined to do something about the world’s children, and to fight for their future. That’s why he worked so hard to be selected to present this study. He believed that stopping drugs in Mexico would be one way to help the kids have a better future. It’s also why he decided to go to China for a few months, while waiting for TBS (officer training school in the Marine Corps.), and to learn Chinese.
Josh hated Communism. He saw what it had done to the people of the world. Once, a professor in college told the class that he thought Communism was the best way to live, that we ought to share everything, all of our money, and that doctors ought to be paid the same as gardeners. Josh stood up and asked the teacher to give his paycheck to the gardener, who was working outside. The professor was stunned for a minute, so Josh continued. He said “If it’s so great, why don’t you start? Sign over a check, right now”. The professor had never been confronted this way before. Josh always, always stood up for what he believed in. That is one thing that all of his friends have vowed to do, in memory of him, because it was so important to him that people live by their words and stand up for their beliefs. On anther occasion, this same professor began talking about the Holocaust. Josh calmly walked to the front of the class, and wrote 10,000,000 + on the board, the number of people killed by Communism. He turned to the class and said “The Nazis killed 6 million Jews. Communism has killed many more people, of all religions. Yet our professor will talk to you about how evil the Nazis were, but not tell you how evil Communism is.” Then he sat down. He was also known for his knowledge about Chinese history. His professor of Chinese History often asked him to lecture in the class. Why had he studied Chinese history so much? For the same reason he went to Mexico. He hated the corruption that had destroyed its future, and he was working on a way to try and help. He went to China to learn the language, and had plans to go back with a political group. Josh believed that, as humans, it is our responsibility to care for the people on our earth, and to help each other out, by the most effective means. Not just giving them money, but actually helping.
Josh also believed that it is a person’s responsibility to become educated. He said that we shouldn’t rely on others to do it, like the schools. It is our responsibility, and we have to do it for ourselves. That’s why he read so much. He wanted to know things, so that he could help. When he was 7, he and his mother were driving by a soccer field and he said “Look at all those parents who are allowing their kids to play soccer. Don’t they know it’s destroying their brains?” (He thought that having the ball hit their head would do brain damage over time. Even as a kid, he though it was important to develop our minds.)
He was so proud to go to Iraq. The same as when he had vowed to help the Mexican children, and the Chinese children, he felt that he could now help the Iraqi children. The week before Josh was killed, he had requested special permission to stay another year in Iraq. He didn’t want to leave until the work was done. He loved the kids there. He wrote home, asking for candy and toys, because he loved giving it to the kids and watching them smile. Every night, he ate dinner with Iraqi families. He loved them, and they loved him. He believed in what we are doing there. He told my cousin Laura that he wanted these children to have the chance to grow up with democracy, the way he did, so that they would have an honest chance of making their lives better. “Josh was exceptionally passionate about service to his country” was the way that one of his best friends, Ryan Hansen described him. Josh had a deep seated belief that the military had a benevolent purpose in the development of countries. One of his favorite books, Starship Troopers, talks about the military’s role in society. Dominic, when asked to describe why Josh had joined the Marine Corps., said, “He was a great student of history and he thought that it was warriors that make countries strong and prosperous.”.
On April 8th, in the afternoon, Josh’s convoy began taking sniper fire as they entered Fallujah. Josh was a first lieutenant, and led a group of men. Some of the men in the convoy, from another lieutenant’s unit, were injured by the sniper fire. It was determined that someone needed to hunt down the snipers and kill them, before they killed any of the men in the convoy. Josh had been trained in sniper hunting, and volunteered. He led a small group of men into the area where the snipers were. They pinpointed the snipers’ location and ran to the building were the snipers were located. Josh didn’t hesitate, he just ran. When they got there, they began clearing rooms with grenades. When they got to the room where the snipers were, Josh insisted on being in front. Usually officers stay in the back, because their lives are considered more valuable. But Josh had always said that he would never send his men somewhere he wouldn’t go himself, and the test of a true leader was whether or not he led from the front. It was known that there was a very high chance that the person in front would be shot, as they were so close to the snipers, and the snipers were waiting for them. Josh still went in front. He probably knew that he was going to be shot, but he wouldn’t allow someone else to die when he could have prevented it. So he leaned forward and threw the grenade. As he did, he fell a little bit forward, and was shot many times all up his left side and into his neck. Immediately his men pulled him back, and killed the sniper who had shot Josh, the other two snipers were taken prisoner. They pulled Josh to a safe location, where he eventually bled to death. The photo I have, which many of you have seen in the papers, is of Josh’s men praying over him, just after he died.
It is important to know that the snipers, when the US soldiers got there, were strapped with C-4, a very dangerous explosive. They were cowards and monsters. They had enough to blow up the entire city block. It was a civilian block, and many innocent people would have been killed. Josh died protecting other people, the same as the way he had lived. Somehow, it doesn’t seem real that someone like him existed here, someone with such high ideals and such brave determination. Josh’s captain, Captain Smith, said that Josh was an unreal soldier, that he’d never met someone so strong in his convictions and so devoted to a cause. We are left to wonder why it is so often those that are so great, that live with such nobility, are the ones to die. The answer is that, because of their nobility and greatness, they are the first to volunteer. It is often the better people who end up giving their lives for others. My cousin Laura, Josh’s girlfriend, said that she knew something like this would probably happen, because Josh was the type of person who would volunteer his life, if he thought it would help someone else. These are our heroes, the men and women who believe in the greatness of our country, and want to share that greatness with the world, so much so that they are willing to give their lives, on the small chance that some other poor, underdeveloped country will have freedom like ours I want everyone to know how much I love Josh, and how proud I am of him and the type of man he is. And that, because I love him, and I know how important these ideals are to him, I would do the whole thing again, because I knows that, even if Josh were told that he would die in Iraq, he would have gone anyway, because he believes it is that important. God bless our troops, and God bless America."
Josua Michael Palmer, 25, of Banning died proudly serving his country on April 8 in Fallujah, Iraq.
Josh was a 1st lieutenant and platoon commander in the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division out of Camp Pendleton.
Josh graduated from Banning High School in 1997 and from the University of San Diego with a Bachelor's degree in international relations.
He was proud of his hometown and represented it well in all he did.
He is survived by his mother and brother, Jackie and Justin Palmer of Banning and his father, Mark Palmer of Joshua Tree; paternal grandmother, Joan Palmer of Orange; maternal grandmother, Delores Nieblas of Banning. There was a viewing on April 15 at the Weaver Mortuary in Beaumont. A memorial service will be held in his behalf at the First Baptist Church of Banning, 565 N. San Gorgonio Ave. at 11 a.m. Friday, April 16 followed by a graveside ceremony at the Riverside National Cemetery.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Weaver Mortuary in Beaumont.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to Joshua M. Palmer Memorial Fund Account #7267669526 c/o Wells Fargo Bank, 1735 W. Ramsey St. in Banning.