The hustle and bustle of everyday life stood still on the morning of June 11 as two fallen Marines from 3rd Bn., 4th Marines, were honored for their sacrifice at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field.
Lance Cpl. Cody Stanley, 21, a native of Rosanky, Texas, made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in Helmand province, Afghanistan. On Oct. 28, 2009, Stanley was killed by an improvised explosive device while attempting to save the life of a fellow Marine. He belonged to Weapons Company.
Lance Cpl. Joshua H. Birchfield, 24, from Westville, Ind., gave his life during a firefight as he turned to fearlessly face his enemy on Feb. 19, in Farah province, Afghanistan. Birchfield was assigned to Company K.
Two rifles with fixed bayonets were placed into wooden stands, two kevlars gently placed on top, a pair of new boots were laid in front of each rifle, pictures of the fallen were placed at the bases and dog tags hung from each pistol grip.
As sound of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” echoed throughout the field, seven riflemen fired a 21-gun salute to their fallen brothers.
“Its sobering. It brings you face-to-face with reality,” Taylor said. “They were selfless, very loyal committed friends.”
Weapons Company was hit hard with Stanley’s loss, but his sacrifice fueled their fighting spirit, said Sgt. Brandan Jansen, Stanley’s section leader.
“We looked at Stanley as a hero. We didn’t get depressed. We conducted ourselves in a way that would make him proud,” Jansen said. “We hung Stanley’s picture on the wall for motivation before we went out.”
Memorials are a reminder to Marines of what they have chosen to sacrifice for the preservation of freedom for their country, said 1st Sgt. Rogelio Deleon, the Weapons Company first sergeant.
“Through hardships and training, you form a bond and a brotherhood. So losing Stanley is like losing one of your own,” Deleon said. “The profession they have chosen to do is a serious profession; it is a life and death situation.”
Taylor said these Marines chose to serve because they believed someone had to answer the call.
“It takes a rare few, a person of incredible moral disciplines, courage and understanding that its not about themselves. It’s about something greater, its about people who need to be honored, protected and fought for.”
Birchfield always encouraged his brothers to keep pushing and never quit through hard times, said Lance Cpl. Michael D Hines, a rifleman in Company K, and friend of Birchfield.
“As a person, he always looked at the good side of things. When things were hard or down, he would find a way to make everyone have a good time out of it,” Hines said. “As a Marine, he never quit on anything or anybody. He made sure everybody pushed through things.”
At the end of the service, final roll call was sounded. When two names of the fallen were shouted and there was no reply, it was a grave and somber reminder of the loss they all seemed bear.
Birchfield’s and Stanley’s families were the first to pay respects at the memorials. It was a heart-wrenching moment shared there as the families said goodbye to their loved ones.
Hundreds of Marines lined up in front of the memorials, each waiting their turn to pay respects to their fallen brothers. They solemnly touched the Kevlars, kissed the dog tags or bowed in respect as a final farewell to their heroes.