Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fallen Heroes April 16

April 16, 2004

Army Sgt. Brian M. Wood

21, of Torrance, Calif.; assigned to 9th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany; killed April 16 when his military vehicle pulled off the road while on patrol and apparently hit a mine in Tikrit, Iraq.

Sign Brian’s Legacy Guest Book at this Link

April 16, 2005

Army Pvt. Aaron M. Hudson

20, of Highland Village, Texas; assigned to the 401st Military Police Company, 720th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas; died April 16 in Baghdad of injuries sustained April 15 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his patrol out of Camp Taji, Iraq.

Sign Aaron’s Legacy Guest Book at this Link

April 16, 2006

Army Master Sgt. Clinton W. Cubert

38, of Lawrenceburg, Ky.; assigned to the 2113th Transportation Company, Kentucky Army National Guard, Paducah, Ky.; died April 16 in the Lexington Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Lexington, Ky., of injuries sustained Sept. 11, 2005, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during combat operations in Samarra, Iraq.

Sign Clinton’s Legacy Guest Book at this Link

April 16, 2007

Army Sgt. Mario K. DeLeon

26, of San Francisco; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany; died April 16 in Baghdad of wounds sustained from enemy small-arms fire.

Sign Mario’s Legacy Guest Book at this Link

Army Pfc. Aaron M. Genevie

22, of Chambersburg, Pa.; assigned to the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas; died April 16 in Baghdad of wounds sustained when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.

Sign Aaron’s Legacy Guest Book at this Link

Army Pfc. Lucas V. Starcevich

25, of Canton, Ill.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany; died April 16 in Baghdad of wounds sustained when the vehicle he was in struck an improvised explosive device.

Sign Lucas’ Legacy Guest Book at this Link

Lucas V. "Luke" Starcevich Memorial Web site - created by the family of Luke Starcevich

Marine Lance Cpl. Jesse D. Delatorre

29, of Aurora, Ill.; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.; died April 16 from wounds suffered while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq.

Sign Jesse’s Legacy Guest Book at this Link

Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel R. Scherry

20, of Rocky River, Ohio; assigned to 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died April 16 from a nonhostile accident in Anbar province.

Sign Daniel’s Legacy Guest Book at this Link

Marine 1st Lt. Shaun M. Blue

25, of Munster, Ind.; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.; died April 16 while conducting combat operations in Anbar province.

Sign Shaun’s Legacy Guest Book at this Link

I just had to share this message that Luke Larson left
on Shaun's Legacy site... I hope you don't mind Luke...
This is just awesome. THANK YOU for this message

April 9, 2008

Almost one year ago on April 17, 2007 I was in Kuwait preparing to go into Ar Ramadi in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq for my second tour during Operation Iraqi Freedom. On the way to the chow hall I stopped to call my wife. I'll never forget her crying when she answered the phone and told me one of my fellow Marine Lieutenants and a very close personal friend had been killed in an area outside of Fallujah.

I first met Shaun Blue in Quantico, VA at Officer Candidate School when he ran the initial three mile portion of the Physical Fitness Test in sixteen minutes. He finished first on the run, two minutes faster than his closest competitor.

When we arrived back in Quantico to attend the Marine Corps six month officer course called The Basic School, Blue and I were assigned to the same squad where I soon realized he could not only ace the Marine Corps PFT test but every challenge the instructors at The Basic School tried to throw at him.

I've been told that three qualities that make a good Marine Corps Officer are intellect, force of will and character, with character being the most important. Blue showed me on several occasions he had all three of the attributes. When I struggled to get through the very challenging Infantry Officer Course, Blue seemed to glide through the difficulties effortlessly.

When other officers, that probably looked better on paper than Blue, crumbled under the pressures of the human factors of a difficult situation that's when Blue excelled. When it was cold, wet, and we were tired Blue was the first person to push the rest of us through the dark nights constantly helping his peers.

In the very competitive environment of a military school Blue always rose to the top ten percent of the class with his intellect and force of will.
Blue's character is what consistently kept him from being the number one graduate. Blue could have easily strived to beat out the other top performers but he did not care about merits of achievement or meaningless accolades. He cared about doing the best he could and helping others do the best they could. Instead of spending the extra hour on his own work to be the number one guy he would regularly spend that hour helping out the sub-par performers get up to a level that they could pass the course. More importantly he helped teach them to be good infantry officers that would lead men into combat. Blue had character.

Standing in Kuwait that day in April 2007, after smoking several packs of cigarettes I said a silent prayer for my friend. After taking a deep breath I decided I would mourn his death only after my own unit made it through our deployment.

It had been almost a year since Blue's death in Iraq and I received a letter that he had been posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with 'V' for valor combat distinguishing device and that the award would be given to his parents on April 5.

On the way to Blue's parents house on April 4 driving into Munster, Indiana I noticed a billboard the town had hung up that said: IN MEMORY OF 1ST LT SHAUN BLUE UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS.

At Jim and Debbie Blue's house I had the honor of listening to several other Lieutenants who served with Blue tell his parents fond memories of their son.

There was the time when Blue's truck broke down thirty miles outside of Twentynine Palms, CA the day he was supposed to report to his first fleet unit. With limited options Blue ran thirty miles into town then checked into his unit.

There was the time that a Sergeant in his platoon challenged him to a boxing match in front of his thirty Marines. Normally it would be best for a green Lieutenant with little to no boxing experience to avoid stepping into the ring against a golden glove boxer who had beaten everyone in the entire platoon. After continued nagging from the Sergeant he accepted the challenge. Blue with a cigarette hanging off his lip knocked out the veteran boxer with his first punch.

On April 5, several Marine Lieutenants who had flown in from around the country for the event headed to the ceremony at Munster Memorial Park. All of us had been to Washington D.C and I think we each commented in surprise how the Munster Memorial Park rivaled any monument we've seen in the nation's capital.

At the ceremony the local reserve unit did an outstanding job performing the color guard as Blue's parents were awarded his well deserved Bronze Star, one of the military's highest awards. After the presentation the crowd walked through the Memorial Park on red brick path stopping at each of the monument's honoring WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War. Near the middle of the path close to the WWII monument there is a brick dedicated to Blue. Closely located is another brick dedicated to his grandfather Cecil T. Blue who served in the Marines during WWII. Blue often told his friends of his veteran grandfather and I'm certain that his bedrock character was in a large part influenced by his elderly mentor.

After walking through the Memorial Park we walked over to a beautiful brick pavilion. In the pavilion there are several of the old WWII recruiting posters and paintings that rallied the support of the nation for the war. In the middle of the exhibit is a permanent display of black polished granite that portrays reflections almost as clearly as a mirror.

Etched into the polished stone is a picture of Blue in his dress blues. Underneath the portrait is an excellent biography that summarized the life of the fallen Lieutenant. As I looked into the granite reflection I locked eyes with the etched picture of Blue and had to pull away because I was hit by a wave of emotions I had never felt. As I tried to gather my composure, Blue's mother Debbie came over and gave me a hug. I felt selfish. I should have been comforting her. She lost her son and here she was comforting me. I saw again where Blue had gotten his most important leadership trait. The entire Blue family has character.

On the way back to Blues parent's house, another Lieutenant and I discussed what a shame it was that Blue had been killed. Our conversation then shifted to how only a small proportion of the United States society truly carries the burden of this war. In no time the atmosphere in the car was very bitter.

To lighten the mood the other lieutenant suggested that we stop at a bar, his reasoning was that if Blue was at one of our memorials that is what he would have done. I agreed with his logic and we pulled into Kilroy's Pub in Lansing, IL just outside of Munster.

Inside the bar thirty local patrons all stopped talking simultaneously and stared at the other lieutenant and I who were both wearing our Marine Corps Dress Blues. When we tried to buy two beers several locals fought over who would get to buy us the drinks. We sat down next to a local who introduced himself to us by his self appointed nickname, "Sticks." He asked us why were in town and when we told him for Blue's memorial he stood up and asked for the bar's attention. Sticks then announced the reason for our visit and the entire bar stood and gave us a lengthy standing ovation. They had heard of Blue. After several rounds were brought to our table courtesy of the Munster and Lansing locals we had to practically fight to get out of the bar and back on our way to Blue's parents house.

On the drive the other lieutenant and I decided that although the rest of the country might not care the people in the small towns do care and definitely appreciate the military's sacrifice. That day in Munster, I was proud to be a Marine and proud to be an American.

I like to think that if the gates of heaven are guarded by Marines as the Marines hymn suggests that First Lieutenant Shaun Blue is now forever walking the lines of the perimeter checking on the Marines defending their eternal post.
Luke Larson (Scottsdale, AZ)