MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Dog tags swaying in the breeze, as they hung from the rifles of battlefield crosses, were dedicated to seven Marines with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, who gave their lives in service to their country during combat operations in the battalion’s recent deployment to Afghanistan.
Family and friends paid their respects to the service members during a remembrance ceremony at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field, May 2, 2012.
Loved ones of Lance Cpls. Jordan Bastean, Jason Barfield, Nickolas Daniels and Joshua Corral; Cpls. Zachary Reiff and Christopher Singer; and Staff Sgt. Joseph D’Augustine, came out to the Combat Center, to be part of their remembrance ceremony.
The seats filled up quickly and quietly before the battalion chaplain, Navy Lt. Byron Johnson, opened the ceremony with a prayer, reading Ecclesiastes from the Bible.
The crowd grew more somber as the Marines reflected on the good things that made their fallen brothers great.
“To lead a battalion of Marines into combat is a privilege of a lifetime, but it is one that comes at a great cost,” Lt. Col. Seth Folsom, battalion commander, 3/7 said. “The late General Robert E. Lee once said, ‘It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.’ Those words spoken so long ago ring true for all of us gathered here today.”
The company commanders were given the opportunity to talk about the Marines lost in their companies. Even though they spoke about individual Marines, their speeches had much in common.
They spoke of the weight of their own feelings at having lost Marines under their command. They shared nicknames the fallen had within their squads and funny anecdotes of times they brought a smile to their fellow Marines’ faces. They mostly talked about how much they will be missed.
Maj. Gen. Ronald Bailey, commanding general, 1st Marine Division, and Brig. Gen. George W. Smith Jr., commanding general, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, also paid their respects to each of the fallen Marines.
After the battalion sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Rafael Rodriguez gave a role call with seven names left unanswered and the 21-gun salute fired off, the families of the fallen were the first to spend precious moments in front of their Marines’ battlefield crosses.
The entire battalion then passed in front of the crosses to say goodbye to their comrades. Some said it with a silent salute. Some wept and some held back their tears to comfort others.
Others needed to take a knee to say a few more private words to their friends.