View Full Version : Final roll call for 11 of the fallen

11-04-06, 05:44 AM
Final roll call for 11 of the fallen
Reserve unit honors 10 Marines and Navy medic who died far from home

By Brian MacQuarrie, Globe Staff | November 4, 2006

The Marines arranged 11 M-16 rifles in a perfectly-straight row yesterday, 11 helmets on top of the rifles, 11 sets of replica dog tags hanging from the weapons, and 11 pairs of boots placed neatly in front of them.

And to the side, as 400 members of the First Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment stood at attention for a roll call of the slain, 11 photographs of 10 Marines and one Navy medic showed the toll in combat deaths that this reserve battalion paid in the deserts and streets of Iraq.

"These men made the ultimate sacrifice in a place far from home," said Lieutenant Colonel Chris Landro, who commands the Devens-based battalion, which recently returned from seven months in the insurgent hotbed of Fallujah.

Landro called them "11 men who represent all that is great in America," heroes who "will forever be emblazoned in our hearts and souls."

Fighting back a surge of emotion, Landro stopped briefly before pledging to the families of the dead a "steadfast guarantee that my children and their children will know who they were and the sacrifice they made."

Families of three of the dead attended the ceremony at the Boston Convention and Exposition Center, in which strict military tradition was intertwined with a camaraderie born of hardship.

Rebecca King -- the widow of Corporal Paul N. King, 23, of Tyngsborough -- said the ceremony was a comforting example of the support that Marines and their families show one another. But the sorrow clearly lingers for this family, as plain as the tears that fell down her cheek.

Paul King was killed June 25 by small-arms fire as he provided security for a mobile-assault platoon.

"When the Marines knocked on the door, it was a hard day," said the slain Marine's father, also named Paul. "And it's been a hard day ever since."

Sergeant Major Bradley Trudell struggled to contain his emotion when he called for Lance Corporal Eric P. Valdepenas, 21, of Seekonk, who was killed Sept. 4 by a roadside bomb.

After calling Valdepenas's name twice, Trudell paused, staring ahead for several seconds until he could call for the fallen Marine a third, and final, time.

"I knew every one of them," Trudell said later of the dead.

The roll-call ritual, he said, has its origins in military history. In a calling where accountability is everything, a final accounting of the fallen is also required.

After taps and dismissal, the Marines offered individual condolences to the families of King, Valdepenas, and Lance Corporal Christopher B. Cosgrove III, 23, of Cedar Knolls, N.J.

Sergeant John Malm, 27, of Bristol, Conn., knelt by a memorial rifle and bowed his head. As he turned to leave the room, Malm said he had offered a short prayer for his fellow Marines and their loved ones. "It's very unfortunate, and it's not ending any time soon," Malm said. "So, I just pray for these families, and for the Marines still over there."

Last night, the battalion gathered again for a gala ball to celebrate the birthday of the Marine Corps. Thoughts of duty, friendship, death, family, and even laughter combined in one bittersweet day for reservists who "endured the unendurable," as Landro said, and now return to lives dominated by civilian routines.

Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at macqua@globe.com.