View Full Version : Fordyce found his niche when he joined Marines

02-21-06, 06:38 AM
Fordyce found his niche when he joined Marines
The Daily Times
By TIMOTHY LOGUE tlogue@delcotimes.com

Ask a thousand people where a Marine should tread cautiously and it’s possible none of them would choose Djibouti, a nation on the coast of eastern African with a population smaller than that of Delaware County.
The Friday deaths of Newtown Square native James F. Fordyce and nine other U.S. servicemen and women provided a tragic example of how the tentacles in the war on terror sometimes stretch beyond the borders of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 22-year-old Fordyce, a helicopter mechanic and sergeant with a North Carolina-based Marine expeditionary force, was among eight Marines and two airmen killed when a pair of CH-53 helicopters crashed in shallow waters in the Gulf of Aden off the Djibouti coast.

The group, which included three Pennsylvanians, was deployed as part of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

"Whether he was at a checkpoint in Iraq or in Africa, (Jim) always looked forward to a challenge," said Fordyce’s friend and neighbor, Lynsey Hetzner. "As rough as he told me it was, he loved all the new experiences and said he would never trade it for anything."

A 2001 graduate of Marple Newtown High School, Fordyce enlisted in the Marine Corps just prior to the 9/11 attacks. He had served two tours in Iraq before being deployed to Djibouti, a country that borders Somalia to the north and Ethiopia to the east.

"He was one of those people who wasn’t sure what he was going to do after his senior year," said Hetzner. "He didn’t know whether to go to college, take a year or two off, or go into the service."

Once Fordyce determined he wanted to be a Marine, Hetzner said he never looked back.

"I know a lot of people had doubts about their decision (to enlist) after 9/11, but he really wanted to go to the battlefield and serve his country," she said.

U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon, who learned of Fordyce’s death Sunday from the Department of Defense, called him "an American hero."

"He was doing critically important work in an area of the world that directly borders the Middle East and has a lot of fundamentalist Islamic activity," Weldon said. "You have the whole northern rim of Africa in that region, including Libya, with Tunisia and Egypt just around the corner."

The CIA identifies Djibouti as a "front-line state in the global war on terrorism and home to the only U.S. military base in sub-Saharan Africa."

"He died as an American hero and he will be honored as an American hero when the time is appropriate," said Weldon, who is working on a resolution in honor of Fordyce for the Congressional Record. A memorial, such as the playground built at Glenwood Elementary School in memory of Michael Horrocks, is also a possibility, the congressman added.

A former Marine Corps pilot, Horrocks was first officer aboard United Flight 175, which was hijacked and crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center.

"I have had a conversation with our board president about holding some type of event at the high school (to recognize Fordyce,)" said Marple Newtown School District Superintendent Merle Horowitz. "Right now, we want to respect the family’s privacy."

In his downtime, Hetzner said Fordyce liked to tinker with cars and spend time with his friends. "He loved to work with his hands," she said.

Hetzner said her friend was completely transformed by his military experience. "If you knew him before, you would have never thought it was the same person," she said. "When he came home for the first time, he had totally changed. His head was on straight and he knew what he was doing."

The Fordyce family declined comment when contacted Monday afternoon at their Locust Street home.

"There are no words that will take away the pain his family is feeling right now," Weldon said. "This is a young man and patriot that we need to think about and honor. All of us are better off for his service."

Also killed in the crash were Marine 1st Lt. Brandon R. Dronet, 33, of Erath, La.; Lance Cpl. Samuel W. Large Jr., 21, of Villa Rica, Ga.; Sgt. Donnie Leo F. Levens, 25, of Long Beach, Miss.; Cpl. Matthieu Marcellus, 31, of Gainesville, Fla.; Sgt. Jonathan E. McColley, 23, of Gettysburg, Pa.; Lance Cpl. Nicholas J. Sovie, 20, of Ogdensburg, N.Y.; Capt. Bryan D. Willard, 33, of Hummelstown, Pa.; and Senior Airman Alecia S. Good, 23, of Broadview Heights, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Luis M. Melendez Sanchez, 33, of Bayamon, Puerto Rico