Saturday, January 29, 2005
Yesterday's helicopter crash that claimed the lives of 30 Marines and one Navy Corpsman marked the largest loss of Marines in a single incident since the Oct. 23, 1983 bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon when 241 U.S. Marines were killed when a explosives-laden truck driven by terrorists crashed through a checkpoint and into the barracks where they slept. Reports from Iraq have said the Marine helicopter was flying in a sandstorm - an unavoidable condition in a war zone.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these Marines who were all veterans of the successful Battle of Fallujah in November 2004 - they will forever be remembered as the heroes they were. Information on each fallen hero can be found here.
Here is information about 3 who were from Ohio:
1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Base Hawaii
Sgt. Michael W. Finke Jr., 28, of Huron, Ohio
Sgt. Michael Finke Jr. knew what he wanted to be from the get-go: A Marine. Always. His family knew it. Heather, his wife of two years, knew it. He was born to wear the uniform, they said. "He enlisted halfway through his senior year in high school," said Finke's dad, Michael Finke Sr. "We had to sign the papers because he was under age. Once he graduated, he went right out to basic training." And once he was a Marine, Finke, of Wadsworth, Ohio, was ready to make it a career. "I know it sounds corny, but everybody loved Michael," said his dad, who last spoke to his son on Tuesday ? a day before Finke's helicopter crashed in Iraq, killing everyone on board. What'd they talk about? Nothing. Everything. Mostly, they talked about the Marines. Finke, 28, a veteran Marine of nine years, was happy to leave Fallujah, he said. But he had been moved by the people he met there. "He told me, 'They are just like us.' "
Cpl. Richard A. Gilbert Jr., 26, of Montgomery, Ohio
Cpl. Richard Gilbert Jr. was looking forward to coming home next week from the war in Fallujah, Helen Gilbert, his mom, said. Foremost on Gilbert's mind: a good, old-fashioned American shower, with plenty of water. "I think he said it had been 19 days since he had had a shower," his mom said. Gilbert, of Dayton, Ohio, arrived in Fallujah last August and spent 2y´ months of a 100-day tour in some of the heaviest fighting of the war without getting a scratch. But getting home had been on the music lover's mind. He longed to play his guitar. As a political-science major at Dayton's Sinclair Community College, Gilbert, 28, dreamed of finishing college, running for city commissioner, then mayor, then Congress, and eventually president of the United States, his mother said. Now, instead of planning a homecoming, the family is planning Gilbert's funeral. "I never dreamed I would have to bury one of my children," said his mom. "But the last thing we said to each other is 'I love you.' "Lance Cpl. Jonathan E. Etterling, 22, of Wheelersburg, Ohio
Lance Cpl. Jonathan E. Etterling joined the Marines to experience the Corps' intense lifestyle, but when he deployed to Iraq, he found that his mission meshed perfectly with his own core beliefs. "If he was your friend, he was your friend," said his father, William Etterling, from the family's home in Wheelersburg, Ohio. "He could not abide a bully. I think that is one reason he felt so strongly about Iraq. He felt he was helping to overthrow a bully, Saddam." The younger Etterling ? a 22-year-old who left for boot camp two weeks after high school graduation in May 2002 ? wanted a career in law enforcement, his father said. He was an easygoing young man "who didn't make any enemies," his father said. He discovered that war was dangerous, grinding work. Once, the heavy-weapons specialist was wounded in the knee by shrapnel and on several other occasions was saved by his bulletproof vest. When he called home Saturday for the last time, his parents could tell he was exhausted. "He said he had everything they needed on the verge of battle," his father said. "He was ready mentally, physically and spiritually to do what was needed. He said to have no regrets if something happened."
We salute these Marines from Ohio. We would be remiss if we didn't also mention the single Sailor killed in this tragic accident. Continuing to quote from Marine Corps Moms:
Naval Medical Clinic Hawaii, Marine Corps Units Detachment, Pearl Harbor
Petty Officer 3rd Class John D. House, 28, of Ventura, Calif.
Petty Officer House had been a father for less than a month and had seen his son only through pictures - James was born to his wife Melanie on Christmas Eve. In an interview with the Ventura County Star, his parents described his relationship with the Marines he served with>
"In one of the letters he wrote, 'I know all of them ... even in the dark, by their mannerisms,'" Susan House of Simi Valley, Calif., read, choking back tears. "'I don't know how I am going to deal with losing any of them. It is my job to take care of them and keep them safe.'"
Petty Officer House extended his deployment because of a shortage of Navy corpsmen. There will be a special place in heaven for him - for all our heroes.
Petty Officer 3rd Class John D. House, a 28-year-old Navy medic, often held the lives of wounded Marines in his hands, but was never able to hold his infant son, born on Christmas Eve, his parents said. House was on his second tour of duty in Iraq, having remained on the front lines when the rest of the unit returned to Pearl Harbor last summer. There were simply not enough medics in Iraq, and House felt a keen sense of devotion to the Marines he was assigned to, said his mother, Susan House of Simi Valley, Calif. House enlisted in the Navy in 1998. He had been married for four years, and his wife, Melanie, lives in Hawai'i. When his son was born, House was able to hear the infant's first cries over a satellite telephone. A few days later, he glimpsed the boy through a video connection. He had planned to spend more time with his wife and child after his enlistment ended in March 2006.