Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
Warriors of today are courageous patriots who, on their own will, devote their lives to protect the citizens of the United States of America. They stood before their family members and peers and swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same. All who take the oath of enlistment fulfill their promise by sacrificing their time, energy and devotion. Others are brought to a higher calling and sacrifice their lives. Cpl. Taylor Baune, Lance Cpl. Steven Stevens, Lance Cpl. Eugene Mills, Lance Cpl. Niall Coti-Sears, Lance Cpl. Hunter Hogan and Lance Cpl. Curtis Duarte fought for the men they served beside and for a home to which they would not return.
1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, held a remembrance ceremony Nov. 2, at the Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field for six of their Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
“Today we are gathered to remember and pay tribute to our fallen brothers,” said Lt. Col. David Bradney, battalion commander, 1/7. “Many ventured into harm’s way time and again in service of their nation, their families and in service of their brothers in arms.”
The Marines of 1/7 stood in formation and friends and family filled the stands as the six Marines were honored with a 21 gun salute, six battlefield crosses and one final roll call. The solemn notes of Amazing Grace resonated across the open field as those who knew the fallen remembered their Marines for their sacrifices.
“They stood proudly and courageously for the protection of our nation,” said Capt. Rhett Hansen, company commander, Company C, 1/7, “They sacrificed their lives for the protection of America and Americans. For millions of fellow citizens who may or may not ever fully appreciate the ultimate sacrifice.”
Hansen intimately described the heroic, final actions of each Marine from his company.
“On the evening of June 21st, we conducted a night insert,” Hansen said. “With the sunrise on June 22nd, the enemy conducted the first of many attacks. We knew this would be a difficult operation.
“At patrol base three, the enemy attacked first platoon with direct fire and grenades. First platoon repelled attack after attack. However, shrapnel from an enemy grenade injured one of the Marines and he required evacuation. As soon as he saw that one of his brothers was wounded, Lance Cpl. Stevens, who was famous for his bright smile and his infectious sense of humor, quickly put on his gear and proclaimed that he was ready to go sweep the landing zone for the medevac aircraft that he knew his wounded brother was going to need. ‘I’m ready when you are,’ he said. He wasn’t tasked or told to get ready. He knew what needed to be done and he happily did it.
“With the enemies’ rounds impacting the patrol base, led by Lance Cpl. Stevens, the landing zone security team selflessly rushed out of the compound into a hail of gunfire. As Lance Cpl. Stevens swept the zone, he fell to a barrage of enemy fires. Despite his fears, he ventured into harm’s way and laid down his life for his brothers.”
It was silent as they lined up in front of the six battlefield crosses. As Marines solemnly saluted the symbols of their brothers in arms and family members kneeled before the pictures of their sons, brothers and husbands, only the sound of grieving sobs and dog tags in the wind could be heard. They remembered them for the lives they lived and for the heroism in the way they died.
“Courage is not the answer to fear,” Bradney said. “Courage is the awareness of danger in the presence of fear and the action of continuing forth. Our brothers embodied courage as they laid down their lives in selfless acts of heroism.”