Celebrating spring with class.
The Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon marches in front of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial on their way to perform for the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard, 12 APR 2014.) High-res

Celebrating spring with class.

The Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon marches in front of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial on their way to perform for the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard, 12 APR 2014.)

SOLDIER STORIES: To Ramadi and back.
U.S. Marine Sgt. Justin K. Smith, a squad leader with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, and native of Greensboro, N.C., takes a rest during a patrol. In 2006, Smith was part of the battle of Ramadi, one of the fiercest battles of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and served as a squad leader with 2/6 conducting counterinsurgency operations in Helmand province’s Nawa District in 2012.
(Photo by Corporal Johnny Merkley, 12 MAR 2012. Article by Corporal Johnny Merkley, 6 APR 2012.)
TREK NAWA, Afghanistan — The men and women who have earned the title of Marine share a unique history and tradition only found in the Corps. In some cases, this history and tradition is shared by generations of Marines from the same family. Sergeant Justin K. Smith, a squad leader with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, and native of Greensboro, N.C., has a rich Marine Corps tradition within his own family that has provided him with extra motivation through some his toughest times as a Marine. “Having so many family members as former Marines, it was something I had to do,” said Smith. “There has never been a generation in my family without at least one Marine.” Smith enlisted in the Corps as an infantryman in 2005, following in the footsteps of both his grandfather Edward Gallagher, a Korean War veteran, and his uncle Donny Gallagher, a Vietnam War veteran. “Because the other members of my family were in the infantry, it was the most appealing occupation,” said Smith. “I knew the risk I was taking, but I still wanted to be infantry even though I knew I would go to war.” Soon after he graduated from boot camp and the School of Infantry, Smith found himself with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, and was among the first U.S. servicemembers to enter the city of Ramadi – in what turned out to be one of the fiercest battles of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2006, U.S. Forces began the siege of Ramadi, the capital of Al Anbar, to gain control of the largest province in Iraq. Though they suffered high casualties, U.S. Forces eventually defeated a deeply entrenched insurgency after five months of intense combat. “Ramadi was an experience, we flew in during the night and I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Smith. “When we woke up the next morning before we went into the city we got word there had been a suicide bomb the night before, I think that’s when it hit me that I was actually at war.” Since Ramadi, Smith has deployed across Europe and the Middle East. He is currently deployed to Nawa District, Afghanistan as a squad leader with 2/6, leading his Marines in counterinsurgency operations throughout the district. Smith and his squad conduct daily security patrols throughout Trek Nawa, and because of his prior experiences in the Corps he says he’s able to lead his Marines with more confidence and composure.“I think because of his experiences he’s able to teach us and lead us better than other squad leaders,” said Sgt. Correy L. Whidden, a squad leader with Weapons Company, 2/6, and native of Stanford, Ky. “I’ve seen him countless times go out of his way to take care of his Marines and keep the moral up within his squad.” Although Smith shares a rich family history with the Corps, he plans on pursuing a different occupation when he returns home from southern Helmand. He hopes to attend the University of Massachusetts Lowell and finally marry his fiancée Rachel after returning from his final deployment. “I’ve learned a lot in the Marine Corps, these are skills that I’ll use for the rest of my life,” said Smith. “I don’t regret my decision to join one bit because the relationships I’ve made while being a Marine will last for the rest of my life.”  High-res

SOLDIER STORIES: To Ramadi and back.

U.S. Marine Sgt. Justin K. Smith, a squad leader with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, and native of Greensboro, N.C., takes a rest during a patrol. In 2006, Smith was part of the battle of Ramadi, one of the fiercest battles of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and served as a squad leader with 2/6 conducting counterinsurgency operations in Helmand province’s Nawa District in 2012.

(Photo by Corporal Johnny Merkley, 12 MAR 2012. Article by Corporal Johnny Merkley, 6 APR 2012.)

TREK NAWA, Afghanistan — The men and women who have earned the title of Marine share a unique history and tradition only found in the Corps. In some cases, this history and tradition is shared by generations of Marines from the same family. 

Sergeant Justin K. Smith, a squad leader with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, and native of Greensboro, N.C., has a rich Marine Corps tradition within his own family that has provided him with extra motivation through some his toughest times as a Marine. 

“Having so many family members as former Marines, it was something I had to do,” said Smith. “There has never been a generation in my family without at least one Marine.” 

Smith enlisted in the Corps as an infantryman in 2005, following in the footsteps of both his grandfather Edward Gallagher, a Korean War veteran, and his uncle Donny Gallagher, a Vietnam War veteran. 

“Because the other members of my family were in the infantry, it was the most appealing occupation,” said Smith. “I knew the risk I was taking, but I still wanted to be infantry even though I knew I would go to war.” 

Soon after he graduated from boot camp and the School of Infantry, Smith found himself with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, and was among the first U.S. servicemembers to enter the city of Ramadi – in what turned out to be one of the fiercest battles of Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

In 2006, U.S. Forces began the siege of Ramadi, the capital of Al Anbar, to gain control of the largest province in Iraq. Though they suffered high casualties, U.S. Forces eventually defeated a deeply entrenched insurgency after five months of intense combat. 
“Ramadi was an experience, we flew in during the night and I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Smith. “When we woke up the next morning before we went into the city we got word there had been a suicide bomb the night before, I think that’s when it hit me that I was actually at war.” 

Since Ramadi, Smith has deployed across Europe and the Middle East. He is currently deployed to Nawa District, Afghanistan as a squad leader with 2/6, leading his Marines in counterinsurgency operations throughout the district. Smith and his squad conduct daily security patrols throughout Trek Nawa, and because of his prior experiences in the Corps he says he’s able to lead his Marines with more confidence and composure.

“I think because of his experiences he’s able to teach us and lead us better than other squad leaders,” said Sgt. Correy L. Whidden, a squad leader with Weapons Company, 2/6, and native of Stanford, Ky. “I’ve seen him countless times go out of his way to take care of his Marines and keep the moral up within his squad.” 

Although Smith shares a rich family history with the Corps, he plans on pursuing a different occupation when he returns home from southern Helmand. He hopes to attend the University of Massachusetts Lowell and finally marry his fiancée Rachel after returning from his final deployment. 

“I’ve learned a lot in the Marine Corps, these are skills that I’ll use for the rest of my life,” said Smith. “I don’t regret my decision to join one bit because the relationships I’ve made while being a Marine will last for the rest of my life.” 

Fun day at the beach with your friends.

Republic of Korea Marines drive Amphibious Assault Vehicles onto Dogue Beach during exercise Ssang Yong, Pohang, South Korea. Exercise Ssang Yong is conducted annually in the ROK to enhance interoperability between U.S. and ROK forces by performing a full spectrum of amphibious operations while showcasing sea-based power projection in the Pacific.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Lauren Whitney, 3 APR 2014.)

SOLDIER STORIES: Farrell’s Fight, Fin.

Farrell Gilliam was buried in Fresno Jan. 21, carried to his grave by Marine pallbearers and friends.

(Article by Gretel C. Kovach, 28 MAR 2014 in UT San Diego. Source.)

He rarely spoke of it. Not to his family or best buddies, fellow Marines or medical staff watching over him. 

But Cpl. Farrell Gilliam had endured far more by the age 25 than most people could comprehend.

The Camp Pendleton infantryman survived three months of combat in 2010 with the “Darkhorse” 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in Sangin, Afghanistan — one of the deadliest battlegrounds of the war.

Amid firefights and insurgents’ bombs, Gilliam saw limbs strewn across the ground. He loaded broken, bleeding bodies for medical evacuation, and grieved for the friends they could not save.

Gilliam’s tour ended early when his legs were blown off by an improvised explosive device, or IED. “Farrell’s Fight,” his struggle on the homefront that his big brother helped him chronicle online, included more than 30 surgeries and three years of rehabilitation.

It was a story of triumph over wounds that would have been fatal in earlier conflicts. A story that was coming to an end, but not how anyone who knew him expected.

Gilliam was months away from a medical discharge from the Marine Corps and a new life as civilian college student. Physically, he had one surgery left to remove hardware in an arm. Psychologically, he was suffering from invisible wounds he hid behind smiles and upbeat banter.

Or so his family discovered on Jan. 9, when Gilliam committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in his barracks room in San Antonio.

Evening Quickie #soldierporn: Sharp Dressed Man.

Lance Cpl. Christopher Pokorny stands in formation with the Silent Drill Platoon while removing bayonets from M1 Garand rifles after performing at Parris Island, S.C. The platoon showcased 15 minutes of unique, precision drill movements before an audience of more than 1,000 recruit Marines and civilians. The platoon is attached to the Battle Color Detachment and based at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., which traveled to more than 15 different locations across the country in March 2014 for a tour. (Photos by Cpl. Octavia Davis, 19 MAR 2014.)

Requiesce, scies pace.
The battlefield cross of Lance Cpl. Caleb L. Erickson sits on display during his memorial service at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. Erickson, of Waseca, Minn., a motor transportation mechanic stationed out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., died while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 28, 2014.
(Article and photo by Corporal Joshua Young, 7 MAR 2014.)
“We’ve come together today to remember Lance Cpl. Caleb Erickson,” said Navy Lt. Doyl E. McMurry, the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines chaplain during the opening prayer for Erickson’s memorial. “He was many things to many people, but to us he was our brother.”Erickson, 20, of Waseca, Minn., was stationed out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. He is remembered by his peers as a Marine who would always volunteer for the jobs that others didn’t want to do but made those jobs fun with his sarcastic humor. “He always found the positive side of everything,” said 1st Lt. John Matlaga, the logistics officer for Motor Transportation Platoon, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines. “His sense of humor and optimism always lifted the hopes and moods of those around him.”Erickson’s peers who spoke at his memorial all mentioned his work ethic and willingness to help everyone. When Erickson saw others working, he would drop what he was doing to help them out. He was loved by all and showed his love for all with his selfless attitude. “The day of the convoy, most of the platoon left for a quick chow break after the brief,” said Cpl. Martin McNamara, also with 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, who then began prepping his truck while others ate. “When the guys came back, there was Erickson, with a heaping to-go tray in his hands. He said, ‘Hey man, I grabbed you some food.’ I told him I hadn’t expected anyone to grab anything for me. He said, ‘Hey, you’re my driver, I gotta make sure you’re taken care of.’ I patted him on the shoulder and said, ‘Erickson, this is why I love you,’ not knowing it would be my last time.”Everyone who knew Erickson knew of his love for his Volkswagen GTI and his fellow Marines, but Erickson loved one thing more than all others, his family.“Everyone knew that about him, how close he was with his family,” said Lance Cpl. Derek Feick, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, who commented on Erickson’s ‘trademark smile’ during the memorial. “I think he got the most letters out of anyone in the whole platoon while we were out here. That just shows how much he was loved and if you ever met him, you knew why he was loved.”Erickson had a strong Minnesota accent that he and his peers loved to make fun of. His fellow Marines knew him as someone who would make himself the butt of the joke to keep everyone smiling and laughing.“He was a model for how every man should be,” said Lance Cpl. Zachary Dewar, with 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, who considers Erickson his best friend and brother. “He always had a smile on his face, and if you didn’t, he’d put one on your face within two seconds of talking to him. He was the greatest man I’ve ever met. I plan on living every day just as he would, and I hope others do too. He made an impact on others’ lives and a huge impact on mine. I know you’re up there, keeping us safe. The memories of you are what keep me going. Semper Fidelis, I love you brother.” High-res

Requiesce, scies pace.

The battlefield cross of Lance Cpl. Caleb L. Erickson sits on display during his memorial service at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. Erickson, of Waseca, Minn., a motor transportation mechanic stationed out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., died while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 28, 2014.

(Article and photo by Corporal Joshua Young, 7 MAR 2014.)

“We’ve come together today to remember Lance Cpl. Caleb Erickson,” said Navy Lt. Doyl E. McMurry, the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines chaplain during the opening prayer for Erickson’s memorial. “He was many things to many people, but to us he was our brother.”

Erickson, 20, of Waseca, Minn., was stationed out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. He is remembered by his peers as a Marine who would always volunteer for the jobs that others didn’t want to do but made those jobs fun with his sarcastic humor. 

“He always found the positive side of everything,” said 1st Lt. John Matlaga, the logistics officer for Motor Transportation Platoon, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines. “His sense of humor and optimism always lifted the hopes and moods of those around him.”

Erickson’s peers who spoke at his memorial all mentioned his work ethic and willingness to help everyone. When Erickson saw others working, he would drop what he was doing to help them out. He was loved by all and showed his love for all with his selfless attitude. 

“The day of the convoy, most of the platoon left for a quick chow break after the brief,” said Cpl. Martin McNamara, also with 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, who then began prepping his truck while others ate. “When the guys came back, there was Erickson, with a heaping to-go tray in his hands. He said, ‘Hey man, I grabbed you some food.’ I told him I hadn’t expected anyone to grab anything for me. He said, ‘Hey, you’re my driver, I gotta make sure you’re taken care of.’ I patted him on the shoulder and said, ‘Erickson, this is why I love you,’ not knowing it would be my last time.”

Everyone who knew Erickson knew of his love for his Volkswagen GTI and his fellow Marines, but Erickson loved one thing more than all others, his family.

“Everyone knew that about him, how close he was with his family,” said Lance Cpl. Derek Feick, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, who commented on Erickson’s ‘trademark smile’ during the memorial. “I think he got the most letters out of anyone in the whole platoon while we were out here. That just shows how much he was loved and if you ever met him, you knew why he was loved.”

Erickson had a strong Minnesota accent that he and his peers loved to make fun of. His fellow Marines knew him as someone who would make himself the butt of the joke to keep everyone smiling and laughing.

“He was a model for how every man should be,” said Lance Cpl. Zachary Dewar, with 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, who considers Erickson his best friend and brother. “He always had a smile on his face, and if you didn’t, he’d put one on your face within two seconds of talking to him. He was the greatest man I’ve ever met. I plan on living every day just as he would, and I hope others do too. He made an impact on others’ lives and a huge impact on mine. I know you’re up there, keeping us safe. The memories of you are what keep me going. Semper Fidelis, I love you brother.”

Bloodied but unbowed.

Cpl. Tyler J. Southern and Cpl. Todd Love plot a course on the map during the land navigation part of corporals course at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda, Maryland. These Marines were part of the first Wounded Warrior Detachment corporals course.

The graduating class of the first Wounded Warrior Detachment corporals course at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda, Md., Jan. 16.

(Photos by Lance Corporal Daniel Wetzel, 12-16 JAN 2012.)

A long road, a rough journey.

Cpl. Kyle Carpenter speaks to Marines during lunch at Bobo Chow Hall in Quantico, Virginia.

Sgt. Dakota Meyer and Cpl. Kyle Carpenter pose for a photo with Marines at 8th and I Marine Barracks, Washington. Sgt. Dakota Meyer, a Medal of Honor recipient, and Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, a Purple Heart recipient, traveled to different units and barracks in the National Capital Region to speak with and motivate junior Marines.

(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Pfc. Eric T. Keenan, 8 NOV 2013. Article by Hope Hodge Seck, Marine Corps Times staff writer, 5 MAR 2014. Source.)

Carpenter’s Medal of Honor nomination stems from reports that, as a 21-year-old lance corporal, he intentionally covered a grenade to save the life of his friend, Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio on Nov. 21, 2010, as the two Marines were standing guard on a rooftop in the Marjah district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province. Both men survived the blast, but were badly wounded. Carpenter lost his right eye and most of his teeth, his jaw was shattered and his arm was broken in dozens of places.

Eufrazio sustained damage to the frontal lobe of his brain from shrapnel. Until recently, his wounds rendered him unable to speak.

The Marine Corps’ investigation into events surrounding the grenade blast has been complicated by circumstances. First, no one witnessed what took place after that grenade was thrown. Second, Carpenter said he couldn’t remember what happened due to trauma from the blast. Third, Eufrazio has been on a long and intensive road to recovery from his wounds. He only regained his ability to speak in late 2012, when his family reported that he was greeting hospital visitors by name.

Still, troops who served with Carpenter on the Marjah deployment say there’s no doubt in their minds that he absorbed the grenade blast to save his comrade.

Marine Staff Sgt. Michael Kroll, Carpenter’s platoon segreant, told Marine Corps Times that even though nobody knew for sure what happened, “our feeling has always been that Kyle shielded Nick from that blast.”

Hospitalman 3rd Class Christopher Frend, who triaged the injuries of Carpenter and Eufrazio, said the injuries Carpenter sustained, and the evidence at the scene indicated that he had indeed covered the explosive. The blast seat of the grenade — the point of its detonation — was found under Carpenter’s torso.

“Grenade blasts blow up; they don’t blow down;” Frend told Marine Corps Times in 2012. “If he hadn’t done it, what we found would have looked completely different.”

While the Marine Corps continued its investigation, Carpenter attained a level of celebrity as a Marine hero. More than 13,000 people have followed his recovery and his projects following retirement via the Facebook page Operation Kyle.

In 2011, the state senate in Carpenter’s native South Carolina honored him with a resolution that gave him credit for taking the grenade blast, saying he exemplified a hero. A photograph from the senate ceremony, showing Carpenter proud in his dress blues with shrapnel scars creating veins of silver across his face, went viral online.

Marine Corps Times has followed his progress, too, including a short feature on the Battle Rattle blog that featured video of Carpenter doing pullups, more than 30 surgeries after the 2010 blast.

Carpenter has maintained close ties with the Marine Corps and has been featured as a guest of honor at several command events. In November, he posted a photo on his Facebook page that shows him alongside Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Mike Barrett and Dakota Meyer, who in 2011 became the first Marine Medal of Honor recipient out of the war in Afghanistan. Meyer and Carpenter paid a joint visit to Marine Barracks Washington, D.C. the same month.

The Corps’ only other post-9/11 Medal of Honor recipient, Cpl. Jason Dunham, was recognized posthumously for smothering a grenade in Iraq in 2004.

SOLDIER STORIES: At last.

Marine Corporal Kyle Carpenter to receive Medal of Honor.

(Article by Marine Corps Times staff writer Hope Hodge Seck, 5 MAR 2014. Source.)

William Kyle Carpenter, a Marine Corps veteran who was severely wounded during a November 2010 grenade attack in Afghanistan, will receive the nation’s highest combat valor award later this year, Marine Corps Times has learned.

Carpenter, a 24-year-old medically retired corporal, will become the service’s third Medal of Honor recipient from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which date back to October 2001. The Marine Corps is finalizing plans with the White House for a ceremony in Washington, officials said.

Marine Corps Times began making inquires about the status of Carpenter’s case because the statute of limitations for Department of Navy Medal of Honor awards requires that a formal recommendation be made within three years of the combat action in question. Carpenter, the subject of two cover stories published by Marine Corps Times in 2012, also recently appeared in the national media. He was the subject of a January feature story in Reader’s Digest and a related appearance Jan. 27 on Katie Couric’s syndicated talk show.

Carpenter declined to comment on reports that he would soon receive the Medal of Honor.

A Marine Corps spokesman referred all comment to the White House. A White House spokesman said he had no scheduling announcements to make regarding the award. However, Medal of Honor presentations are typically announced only a month in advance.