View Full Version : Loved ones mourn their fallen Marines

10-12-03, 08:56 AM
Loved ones mourn their fallen Marines

Respects paid to 39 who died in Iraq war

By Jeanette Steele

October 11, 2003

CAMP PENDLETON Dennis Geurin bent and touched the dog tags that hung not from his son's neck but from an M-16 rifle plunged ceremonially into the ground.

Barely three months have passed since Lance Cpl. Cory Geurin, 18, died in Iraq when he fell off a building he was guarding.

But yesterday's 1st Marine Division memorial service for 39 fallen members was the father's first chance to talk to Marines who ate, slept and fought next to his son. He hungers for every tidbit about his Marine's final days.

"I need to touch base with Marines who knew him. I need to ask them questions. 'What did you eat? What did you talk about?' " said Geurin, who wore a T-shirt with his son's boot camp graduation photo emblazoned on the front.

The misty morning ceremony made proud tears fall again among family and friends of the 1st Division Marines who died in Iraq.

The 20,000-person division, which was the Marines' main ground force in the war, waited to hold the ceremony until all its members had returned home, officials said. The last large group came back last weekend.

Geurin, of Santee, said it was important for him to attend, but added that his wife isn't ready for ceremonies.

"Our heart's broken and we miss him very much," he said. "But I came today to pay respects not just to my son but to all the soldiers and the Marines here that gave their lives for their country."

Thirty-nine rifles were lined up across a base parade field. Thirty-nine desert-camouflaged combat helmets rested atop the weapons, and 39 pairs of dust-colored boots sat below.

The unmanned rifle is a traditional tribute at a Marine memorial service, but rarely are there so many lined up at once.

As a band played a slow, mournful hymn, a Marine official read each man's name, hometown, unit and date of death. For each, a Marine honor guardsman from his unit performed a slow, tight salute, then marched to stand sentinel behind the upended rifle.

Many eyes became wet as the hourlong ceremony went on. Three large sections of bleachers and chairs were filled by family and fellow Marines, and more stood around the sides.

Staff Sgt. Christian Morera, 30, wiped his cheeks as he walked from the field. Home since July, Morera didn't know any of the fallen Marines, but he said he felt humbled by the ceremony.

"To see their families here crying, it kind of gets to you," said Morera, of the 11th Marine Regiment. "The loss of these guys is a lot. It just made me feel proud that these (Marines) gave their lives up to protect and free a country."

Sgt. Maj. Wayne Bell said it was hard to keep his emotions in check while reading the names.

"This is probably the toughest thing I've ever had to do in my life," said Bell, a Marine for 27 years.

Division Commander Maj. Gen. James Mattis said these Marines are the real cost of freedom. In front of him, 11 platoons stood in formation, representing each regiment and specialty battalion that deployed for the war.

"It was the courage, unselfishness and skill of these young men we recognize today, to which we owe our victory," Mattis said. "And even our own lives. Any one of us might have died in their place, and certainly some of us are alive today thanks to them.

"We will never forget them."

Jeanette Steele: (619) 718-5182; jen.steele@uniontrib.com


CHARLIE NEUMAN / Union-Tribune
Dennis Geurin of Santee grieved at a memorial service Friday for his son, Lance Cpl. Cory Geurin, 18, and 38 other members of the 1st Marine Division who died in Iraq. Family and friends of the fallen and strangers attended the service.