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thedrifter
08-26-04, 07:37 AM
A Marine's Marine: Brothers-in-arms, family, friends say goodbye
Submitted by: MCAGCC
Story Identification #: 2004823231959
Story by Sgt. Jennie Haskamp



MELBOURNE BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 12, 2004) -- Torrents of rain came just minutes after the graveside services were completed here, Aug 12.

"God just opened heaven for him," said one mourner, staring up into the dark clouds shrouding the cemetery. "Now he's home."

Hundreds of mourners attended the Florida funeral and burial services of Gunnery Sgt. Elia P. Fontecchio, Kilo Company gunnery sergeant, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines.

Fontecchio, a Milford, Mass., native was killed on patrol in Iraq's Al Anbar Province Aug. 4.
Along with his wife, Kinney, and his 2-and-a-half-year-old son, Elia, Fontecchio, is survived by his parents, Dennis and Cindy of Satellite Beach, Fla., as well as three sisters and their families.

At the Aug. 11 wake, friends and family waited in line for nearly an hour to pay their respects to the man who'd touched their lives in so many ways.

Amidst the tears and whispers were quiet bouts of laughter as friends and family from Massachusetts, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, New Mexico, California and other spots across the nation shared stories about Fontecchio.

Marines who'd served with Fontecchio during his 12-year career came to pay their respects and share their stories of the man they loved as well.

"This is not OK," said longtime friend Greg Hoesing, looking at the flag-draped casket sitting in front of the church. "Elia is my friend. He was a great husband, amazing father and an outstanding Marine, and this is not OK."

Hoesing, who served alongside Fontecchio in 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, shared stories of Fontecchio's enormous love for his wife and young son as well as his family, his friends and his Marines.

He laughed through his tears, talking about his friend's tendency to play practical jokes, and implored everyone listening to ensure they appreciate why his friend died.

"He died for your freedom and for mine," said the former Marine and bodybuilder, gripping the podium, fighting tears. "Don't let his death be in vain."

Unable to attend the services were the Marines and Sailors of 3/7 still patrolling the border Iraq shares with Syria.

They were represented in a eulogy given by Capt. Buster O'Brien, Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., who served with Fontecchio in Weapons Company, 3/7, during Operation Iraqi Freedom 1.

"I'm speaking here today on behalf of Gunny's brothers in 3/7," started O'Brien, fighting back tears. "I can tell you that though there are many of them here today, the vast majority could not be here-for they are paying their respect to their beloved Gunny by going back out on patrol and doing their job the way he taught them to-with courage, competence, discipline and, when necessary, a smile."

O'Brien, like those who spoke before him at Saint Sebastian's by the Sea in Melbourne Beach, shared stories depicting "Gunny"' as an incredible mentor, teacher, father, husband, friend and Marine.

The thing that made O'Brien's speech stand out were the words, penned by Fontecchio himself, weeks before his death and given to his friend and fellow Marine in Iraq, Capt. Jeremy Graczyk.

"I loved every one of you," Fontecchio wrote in a letter to be read in the event of his death. "You will forever be my brothers in arms."

Before he finished, and fighting for composure, O'Brien addressed young Elia, sitting in the pew next to his mother.

"Elia first of all, we'll have time later on to talk about your Daddy, and we will," he said, tears flowing again. "But today please know that your Daddy was truly a courageous warrior. We were overseas in combat, and at least once a day he took out pictures of you and said, 'Come on, you gotta admit it, is he the cutest kid you've ever seen?' He was so proud of you. You were literally the pride of his existence. He will always be with you. And whenever you need anything, just call on one of Gunny's brothers-in-arms."


http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/200482323293/$file/funeral2lr.jpg

MELBOURNE BEACH, Fla.-Pallbearers from the Inspector Instructor Staff Orlando, Fla., carry the flag-draped casket of Gunnery Sgt. Elia P. Fontecchio from Saint Sebastian's by the Sea here Aug. 12. His widow, Kinney, and young son, Elia, are being escorted by her late husband's friend and fellow Marine Captain Buster O'Brien.
Photo by: Sgt. Jennie Haskamp

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/2004823233151/$file/funeral3lr.jpg

MELBOURNE BEACH, Fla.-Captain Buster O'Brien embraces Kinney Fontecchio after presenting her with a flag in honor of her husband's service to his country. O'Brien, who served alongside Fontecchio in Operation Iraqi Freedom 1, traveled from Quantico, Va., to pay homage to his fallen friend. Photo by: Sgt. Jennie Haskamp

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/2004823233941/$file/funeral7lr.jpg

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif.-Kinney Fontecchio helps her son, Elia, carry the eucharist to the front of the chapel at her husband's memorial service. Gunnery Sgt. Elia P. Fontecchio, Kilo Co., 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, was killed in Iraq's Al Anbar Province Aug. 4 while on patrol. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Cory W. Yenter

http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/AC3988A5175CE65A85256EFA00124F58?opendocument


Ellie


Rest In Peace

William143
09-04-04, 01:55 PM
so few people know marines are about but this gunnie sgt gave all he had for a nation that some do not care what happened I lost a brother and am proud to know why he payed the price


cpl william c watson vietnam 1966-1967

hrscowboy
09-04-04, 10:36 PM
Rest in peace my brother...

gannonjf
09-11-04, 06:29 AM
I had the honor and privledge of serving with Gunny during OIE 1 3/7 Kilo Co. I left active duty Jan 2004 so I missed round 2. I was devastated when I heard the news. Gunny was an outstanding man, Marine, father and husband, and he will be sorely missed. If there is anything we as Marines can do to help Kinny deal with this tragic loss please feel free to ask.
-James Gannon
gannonjf@comcast.net

Sgt. Smitty
09-26-04, 11:44 AM
Semper Fi Gunny........You're in a much better place now........rest in peace